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IN offering " The Life and Times of Hannibal Hamlin " to the 
public, I beg to make a brief explanation. This volume represents 
three years work on my part, in which time I have received valu 
able assistance from many sources. For the personal narrative I 
am chiefly indebted to my father, General Charles Hamlin, my grand 
father s right-hand man for many years. He gathered material for 
the purpose of writing the biography, but was prevented on account 
of public and business duties. He also rendered me invaluable aid 
in consultation, while the manuscript was being written. I also 
acknowledge important help received from John G. Nicolay, Josiah 
H. Drummond, Noah Brooks, Henry L. Dawes, Albert E. H. John 
son, John Conness, Frank B. Fay, and others, in preparing the chap 
ter which demonstrates Lincoln s desire for the renomination of the 
ticket of Lincoln and Hamlin in 1864. I would add that my own 
investigations into this subject cover a period of seven years, dur 
ing which time I consulted and corresponded with many surviving 
delegates to the Union Convention of 1864. The genealogical record 
was obtained mostly from the comprehensive " Life of the Hamlins," 
by H. Franklin Andrews, of Iowa ; also from the researches of Pro 
fessor Charles E. Hamlin, of Harvard University ; James H. Hamlen, 
of Portland, Maine, and William Hamlyn, of Buckfastleigh, England. 

The chief feature of Hannibal Hamlin s career is his anti-slavery 
record. This is the principal story of the biography, and it includes 
a substantial account of the rise and fall of the slave party in Maine, 
as well as in the nation. In dealing with the struggles of the anti- 
slavery men in Maine, one invaluable authority was my grandfather s 
private correspondence, which included fully ten thousand letters, 
and nearly half of which related to this picturesque phase of Maine 

C. E. H. 

BANGOR, MAINE, January 24, 1899. 





Descended from Teutonic clans. Represented in several countries. Pil 
grim and Revolutionary Hamlins. Settlers in Maine I 



His parents, brothers, and sisters. How he was named, and how his life 
was saved by an Indian woman. Early life at Paris Hill 15 



Preparing for college. Youthful leadership and pranks. Influence of 
Governor Lincoln. Ambition to be a soldier and actor. Death of 
father. Loss of college education 24 



First battles with life. A Jackson Democrat. Stories of young Hamlin s 
political and personal successes 34 



Student with General Samuel Fessenden. Proclaims himself an anti-slavery 
man. Marriage and legal career in Hampden. Sidney Bartlett s esti 
mate of Hamlin as a lawyer 41 



Beginning of his anti-slavery career. Opposition to capital punishment. 
Three times speaker of the House. Laws he originated. Picturesque 
incidents. The Aroostook war. Members of the legislature .... 53 




The Hamlin-Allen campaign. Washington in 1843. Attitude of the par 
ties on the slavery question. Famous leaders. Edward Everett Hale s 
reminiscences of Hamlin 7 2 



Hamlin s encounters with fire-eaters. Wild scenes in the House. First 
speech in Congress and attack on the gag law. Complimented by John 
Quincy Adams 83 



Northern and Southern congressmen. Hamlin s ideas of honor. His 

speeches for ballot, pension, and postal reforms 91 



Reflected to Congress. Asked to be candidate for speaker. Speech 
against annexing Texas, and eulogy of New England. Benton s plan 
to avert war with Mexico. Corruption of the slave party 99 



The murder of Jonathan Cilley, of Maine. Hamlin s bill to expel duelists 

from the House. His speech, the debate and defeat of resolutions . . 113 



Plot of the slave power to betray all of Oregon to England, and partial frus 
tration by the anti-slavery Democrats. Hamlin s best speech in the 
House. John Quincy Adams s part 121 



Planned by the slave power. Hamlin s opinions and acts. His opposition 
to President Polk s army bill, and its defeat. His belief in the American 
volunteer 139 




Pro-slavery leaders prevent Hamlin s election to the Senate. Exciting 
struggle. Six weeks balloting by the legislature. Hamlin s rejection 
of all compromises. Beaten by one vote. The men who stood by him 
for principle 14? 



Authentic story of this famous measure. Devised by Brinkerhoff, offered 
by Wilmot and Hamlin. Polk s plan to defeat it. An exciting 
moment in the House 155 



Attempt of the slave power to force slavery into Oregon. Hamlin leads 
the Free-Soil movement. His speeches and the defeat of the plot . . 163 



Hamlin chosen by one vote majority to succeed Fairfield. Incidents of a 
close contest, and the men who supported him. Senator Hamlin for 
Levi Woodbury for President. Supports Cass unwillingly, and opposes 
his brother for governor 170 



Sketches of Benton, Webster, Clay, Calhoun, and other giants. His first 
speech. Exposition of the Clayton bill to steal slavery into Oregon. 
Lincoln s estimate of this speech 182 



Senator Hamlin s opposition. President Taylor s revelation to him of the 
plot to destroy the Union. A dramatic rebuke to the conspirators. 
Hamlin s speech to admit California as a free State 196 


Chairman of Committee on Commerce. Important measures he devised. 
Now a working senator. His friendship for Thomas H. Benton, Jeffer 
son Davis, R. M. T. Hunter, John Davis, and other famous colleagues . 216 



Renominated for the Senate, and bolted by the pro-slavery leaders. Oppo 
sition of Governor Dana, Nathan Clifford, Bion Bradbury, and others. 
Help from the Free-Soilers elects him by one votg after two months bal 
loting. The " Hamlin Guard " 234 



Hamlin and Benton manage Judge Woodbury s candidacy. Letters from 
Benton to Hamlin. His ideas as to qualifications for the presidency. 
How Pierce was nominated 252 



F all of Franklin Pierce. Hamlin s warning to the Democracy if it should 
abrogate the Missouri Compromise. Story of that betrayal of pledges. 
Names of those who voted for and against it in Congress 260 



The Kansas outrages, nomination of Buchanan, and Hamlin s withdrawal 
from the slave party. His speech on resigning chairmanship of the 
Committee on Commerce 275 



Comments on his exit from the Democracy. Favors McLean for Presi 
dent. Nominated for governor by the Republicans of Maine. Re 
united politically with his brother. Elected governor. The unique 
campaign of 1856. Mentioned for President and declines 292 



Chief magistrate of Maine six weeks. Returned to the Senate. Republi 
can fathers in the Senate. The battle for Kansas. Hamlin s reply to 
"Mudsill" Hammond 3H 



Movement to nominate Hamlin for President. Forbids use of his name for 
either place on ticket. Secures Lincoln delegates in Maine. Nomi 
nated for Vice-President and forced to accept 33 * 




The contesting parties. Campaign in Maine. Mr. Hamlin s manage 
ment. His speech and tribute to Lincoln. Songs and incidents of 
the election 352 



The Cabinet discussed and partially selected at their first interview. Why 
Mr. Hamlin selected Gideon Welles for the Cabinet. Lincoln s silence 
over the critical situation. Letters between the President and Vice- 
President elect 366 



The acts of the responsible conspirators. Mr. Hamlin s estimates of James 
Buchanan and Jefferson Davis. His protest against the Crittenden 
compromise, and prediction of war. His receptions on the way to 
Washington 376 


Inauguration of Lincoln and Hamlin, and beginning of their historic friend 
ship. The President as the Vice-President saw him. Lincoln hope 
ful for peace; Hamlin sure of war ; Se ward optimistic 391 



The record of Maine and her soldiers. Vice-President Hamlin s work in 
the Pine Tree State. He describes his relations with Mr. Lincoln. 
Ingratitude of Welles to his benefactor. Discouragement over the man 
agement of the war 406 



Vice-President Hamlin urges President Lincoln to free and arm the slaves. 
Mr. Lincoln shows him the Emancipation Proclamation first, and gives 
him order to enlist the colored men. Mr. Hamlin s son an officer in the 
negro troops 420 



The Vice-President speaks in Maine, visits the soldiers in camp, advises the 

President to dismiss McClellan. Touching incidents 436 



Growing discontent with the President. True worth of the Radical Repub 
licans. They want another President. Mr. Hamlin induces them to 
support Mr. Lincoln. The Vice-President condemns the Copperheads . 449 



Mr. Hamlin defeated for renomination by an intrigue and the falsification of 
a delegation. President Lincoln his friend and supporter. Testimony 
of Nicolay, Hay, Brooks, James Harlan, Lot M. Morrill, Henry L. Dawes, 
and many others who knew Lincoln 461 



President Lincoln offers Mr. Hamlin cabinet appointment. His death and 
Mr. Hamlin s sorrow. Johnson drunk when inaugurated Vice-Presi 
dent. Mr. Hamlin collector of port of Boston 490 



The perfidy of Andrew Johnson. Mr. Hamlin resigns collectorship of Bos 
ton. His probable course had he been President. Builds a railroad. 
The great senatorial election of 1869 504 



Mr. Hamlin s relations with Grant and estimate of him. His personal 
influence in Congress, and the measures he supported. The Southern 
question. Sumner s quarrel with Grant and his dismissal. Mr. Ham 
lin for arbitration 5*9 



Mr. Hamlin s antagonism to President Hayes. His rank in the Senate. 
Speech on the Chinese question, and belief in the republic. Declines a 
reelection. Receptions at Washington and Bangor. Tributes from 
his associates. Pen picture of Mr. Hamlin by George F. Hoar . . . 535 




Mr. Hamlin helps defeat the third term movement. Garfield appoints him 
minister to Spain. He meets President GreVy. Impressions of 
France, England, Italy, and Spain. The people, and the King and 
Queen. Home, and in retirement 553 



Pictures and stories of home life. Mr. Hamlin s impressions of public men 
he knew. His personal habits, tastes, fondness for pets, his sketches 
of Lincoln. Asks the nation to make the Emancipator s birthday a holi 
day. Death 568 


INDEX 619 



























THE Hamlins are believed to have been Teutonic tribes, clans, or 
nations of people who lived along the banks of the rivers and lakes in 
the far-off ages of old Germany. The name Hamlin is probably of 
locative origin, being derived from the old Saxon words " ham " and 
"lin" or "lyna," which mean home and pool. Hence, etymologists 
hold that a "hamlin" or "hamlyn" was "the home by the pool," and 
that the Hamlin or Hamlyn was the person who lived by the pool. 
A circumstance that appears to bear out this theory is the fact that 
Hamlins are now living in the ancient town of Hamelin, in Hanover, 
at the confluence of the rivers Hamel and Weser, which is the town 
made famous in the legend of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," by 
Robert Browning. There are other seats in Germany whose names 
seem also to uphold the theory concerning the origin of the name of 
Hamlin, and to indicate that the Hamlins were spoken of as a dis 
tinctive tribe, clan, or nation, as the Highlanders of Scotland, for 
example, are spoken of in distinction from other branches of the Scot 
tish race. Many surnames were derived in this way, and when 
Germany emerged from barbarism, Hamlin became a family name. 
Bearers of this name gradually found their way into other countries, 
and now the Hamlins are an immense representative family in Ger 
many, France, England, Canada, and the United States of America. 
There are various ways of spelling the name, Hamlin, Hamlyn, 
Hamblin, Hamblen, Hamline, Hamlyne. In early times members 
of a family often spelled their common name differently, and this 
accounts for the various ways in which this surname is now written. 
In the United States it is generally spelled Hamlin ; in England, 
Hamlyn ; in France it is Hamelin, the name of the distinguished 
admiral who commanded a fleet in the Crimean war, and that also 
borne by many Huguenot families. 

The American Hamlins are descended from the English branch of 


their race, whose origin is clearly proved by the old Norman and 
English chronicles. The first authentic records of individual Hamlins 
were made by William the Conqueror, in his " Battle Abbey Roll " 
and " Domesday Book." When he planned his invasion of England 
to take the throne from Harold, he gathered his army for embarka 
tion at Dives, France, in 1066. He assembled an army of about sixty 
thousand knights and soldiers, who were of the flower of Norman, 
French, and German arms. Before the departure William had a roll 
made of his knightly companions, who were about five hundred in 
number, and placed it in the old cathedral in Dives, where it may be 
seen to-day. On this roll is inscribed the name of Hamlin de Balon, 
the first Hamlin to appear in authentic records. After the battle of 
Hastings, William, to commemorate his victory over the English, 
built the Battle Abbey on the field of his triumph, and to perpetu 
ate the names of his knightly companions who fought under his ban 
ner he had a second roll made, which he caused to be placed in Battle 
Abbey. This roll, it is supposed, was removed to Cowdray House, 
near Midhurst, and lost when that ancient seat was destroyed by fire 
in 1793. But fortunately many copies of the original record were 
taken and safely preserved. While some of these copies are obviously 
incorrect, having had names added to them, yet the name of Hamelin 
de Balon appears on all, and on some without descriptive title. 

English authorities l hold that some names on the " Battle Abbey 
Roll" represent families, and if this theory be true the name Hamelin, 
in this instance, stands for several men of that name. There are no 
trustworthy records that show how many Hamlins were among the 
Normans at Hastings ; but there is convincing evidence that there 
were at least two knights among William s companions, and many 
among the soldiers. When William set about completing his subju 
gation of England he had the " Domesday Book " written in two vol 
umes, in 1086, which is the authoritative record of his division of land 
among his trusted companions. In this are the names of Hamelin, 
Sire de Balon, and Hamelin, sometimes spoken of, and published, as 
Hamelinus. 2 In old English chronicles, such as land patents and 
other documentary evidence reproduced by Worthy, the English his 
torian, there are other records which show that after the battle of 
Hastings large tracts of land in various parts of England, mostly in 
Cornwall and Devonshire, were apportioned in small allotments to 
other Hamlins, who, it is thought, came from Germany ; but this is 
not pertinent to the narrative which is confined to the ancestors of 
the American branch of the Hamlin family, and is, therefore, of no 
special interest to these pages. 

1 Charles Worthy s history of The Suburbs of Exeter. 

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Hamelin, Sire de Balon, was a man of some distinction as implied 
by his title, which means that he was the lord of Balon, a town in 
France. He was also " the son of a great Norman chieftain, Dieu de 
Baladun or Balure," as noted in Coxe s "Monmouthshire." It is sug 
gested by Worthy that Hamelin, Sire de Balon, and Hamelin or Hame- 
linus were related, possibly brothers, but while this is not susceptible 
of documentary proof there seems to be moral evidence that there 
was a relationship between the two knights, in the similarity of their 
names, nationality, rank, and crossing of fortunes. William s con 
fidence in the two Hamlins is proof of their Norman origin, for when 
he subjected the English people to his severe process of subjugation 
by compelling them to accept Norman lords, officers, speech, ways, 
and customs, he placed only Normans on guard. William ordered 
the Sire de Balon to take command of the territory of Ober-went, in 
Monmouthshire, where he built the castle of Bergavenny, at the 
king s command, and ruled there over his subjects until his death. 
To the other Hamelin, William, or his half-brother Robert, the Earl 
of Montaigne, gave twenty-two manors of land in Cornwall and 
Devonshire. In Devonshire Hamelin, according to the "Domes 
day Book," had the lordship over Hamistone, which is now called 
Broadhempstone, and also Alwington, under the Earl of Montaigne, 
a circumstance that indicates that he sustained close relations with 
Robert. The Sire de Balon died childless at about the end of the 
reign of William Rufus, and bequeathed his estate to Brian, the son 
of his sister Lucy. Brian settled the property on his cousin, Walter 
of Gloucester, then High Constable of England. Walter s son was 
created Earl of Hereford, but his male line became extinct. One of 
his daughters became the wife of Sir William Braose, and their 
descendant, Eva, married William de Cantilupe. He succeeded 
Hamelin in the lordship of Broadhempstone, a fact which might have 
been simply a curious coincidence, or yet might have been due to the 
relationship existing between the houses of the two Hamlins. 

Hamelin most probably came to Cornwall in the immediate train 
of the Earl of Montaigne, and there founded the family from which 
the American Hamlins are descended. He was in command of a 
large body of men and exercised much power in Cornwall, but 
besides these facts not much of interest is known of him. He had 
a numerous progeny ; and the name Hamlin frequently occurs in the 
early records of Cornwall in ways which show that the Hamlins of 
that time were large landholders and held high social positions. It 
is a fact at least worthy of mention, that from the time the Phoeni 
cians discovered Cornwall and worked its tin mines, up to the pre 
sent, Hannibal 1 was a favorite Christian name among the people of 
1 Hannibal means "favor of Baal." 


Cornwall. But most of the descendants of Hamelin eventually mi 
grated to Devonshire, and the main branch of the English Hamlins 
is, therefore, chiefly identified with its history. To-day they are one 
of the representative families of Devonshire ; and it is due to their 
energy that the woolen business, the staple industry of the old county, 
still flourishes in the valley of the Dart. 

Many other Hamlins also settled in Leicestershire, Warwickshire, 
Worcestershire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, and Rutland after the 
battle of Hastings, and came into possession of large land interests. 
It is possible that they entered William s army from the town of 
Hamelin, which is but twenty miles from Hanover. But this is con 
jecture, although the fact that they became landowners simultane 
ously in various counties after Hastings would seem to be moral evi 
dence that they rendered William services. From the Norman period 
the records of certain counties of England bear testimony to the num 
bers and political and social position of the Hamlins. Thus a Hamelin, 
a descendant of Hamelin, was Reeve of Launceston in 1207. In 
1260 Sir William Hamlyn was member of Parliament from Totnes. 
Sir John Hamelin was a conspicuous representative of the descend 
ants of Hamelinus in the early part of the fourteenth century, and 
his effigy may now be seen in the old church at Wymondham. 
Under Edward the Fourth, William Hamelin was sheriff of the 
counties of Leicester and Lincoln. Geoffry Hamlin also had a com 
mission to protect the Black Prince in Gascony. In 1468 John 
Hamlyn was mayor of Exeter; in 1499 Nicolas held the same 
office, and Henry Hamlyn in 1526 and 1538. James Hamlyn, of 
Cloverly, was created baronet in 1795. But the list is too long to be 
extended further beyond the beginning of the Hamlins history in the 
New World. 

The pioneer Pilgrims, who came to this continent in 1620, as a 
result of religious persecutions, were followed by a second group of 
English men and women who shared their convictions. The men 
were mostly graduates of Cambridge, and held about the same social 
status as Cromwell, Hampden, and Prynne. 1 It was a remarkable 
body of men and women ; they voluntarily gave up comfortable homes 
and good social positions in England in exchange for a hazardous 
life in a wilderness. James Hamlin, of Devonshire, was one of this 
number. Not much is known about him, but his acts tell their own 
story. He was the son of Giles Hamlin, of Devonshire, and a brother 
of Thomas Hamlin, of London, who had the privilege of inscribing 
himself "gentleman." James is the ancestor of the larger part of 
the Hamlin race in this Republic. He made a voyage to Cape Cod 
unaccompanied by his family, and there made a home for them at 

1 John Fiske s American Political Ideas. 


Barnstable. He then returned to England, and in 1639 brought back 
his wife and several children. A numerous progeny was also spiting 
from Captain Giles Hamlin, who immigrated to Middletown, Conn., in 
1650. It is supposed that James and Giles were brothers, but their 
relationship, like the connection between Sire de Balon and Hameli- 
nus, was never determined. At the time Giles came to this country, 
Lewis Hamelin, of France, settled in Canada and established the 
Hamlin family of that part of the continent. 

Cape Cod was a bleak and desolate spot when James Hamlin and 
his companions took up their life there. The country was flat and 
sandy, and the soil was hardly capable of cultivation. The land was 
apportioned among the settlers, and after much toil they founded the 
ancient and historical town of Barnstable, and James Hamlin was one 
of the thirteen incorporators. The land that he received was called 
Hamlin s Plains, and his house remained standing for many years 
after his death. Hamlin was also a friend and a follower of the 
famous Pilgrim preacher, John Lothrop, who managed to supply the 
needs of the church at Barnstable for years, in addition to his duties 
at Scituate. Hamlin is supposed to have come to this country in the 
same ship with Lothrop. In 1690 James Hamlin died, full of years, 
he must have been fully eighty, leaving a good name and a large 
family of children, most of whom were born at Barnstable. Five sons 
are supposed to have survived their father ; and an amusing tradition 
has been handed down concerning them that illustrates the indiffer 
ence people of this period showed about their family name. It is 
said, and the story appears well borne out by facts, that when James 
made his will and spelled his surname Hamlin, his sons agreed that 
each should spell it differently. 

When the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts the Indians were dis 
posed to be friendly. There were five hundred or more living around 
the neighborhood of Cape Cod, and they gave the people of Barn- 
stable no trouble. But as the English began to get a foothold, to 
multiply and extend their interests, the Indians became alarmed and 
jealous. The old story of a weaker people retiring before a stronger 
people was repeated. The Indian was wronged by the freebooters of 
all nations that ravaged these shores, but he was never destined to 
be civilized. He was a passing phase, a picturesque figure in the 
human family. Contact with Anglo-Saxon civilization shivered and 
finally broke him. While the Indian was shamefully treated in many 
respects by the whites, his cruelty and treachery towards his own 
race must not be forgotten. He had noble qualities, but at the same 
time he had also the nature of a savage. To the honor of the Pil 
grims it must be recorded that their treatment of the Indian was in 
the main generous and humane, albeit they were guilty of some high- 


handed acts. The conflict between the Pilgrims and the Indians, in 
the Narragansett war, was precipitated by Philip to check the advance 
of the English, not to retaliate on them for any acts of cruelty or 

Philip, king of the Wampanoags, was a great warrior, the Vercinge- 
torix of his people. In 1675 ^ e formed the tribes of New England 
into a league to exterminate the English.* It was war to the knife, 
and the English, calling their best fighters, prepared to break the 
Indians power in New England. The Narragansett war was a period 
of terrible tension and suffering for the English ; an experience with 
a new kind of warfare, lurking foes and ambuscades, with one brilliant 
battle which, judged by results, should be ranked among the great 
battles in history. The English decided that to put the war to an 
end they would have to find Philip and strike him an unexpected 
blow. Philip was in camp in a large swamp, where the town of King 
ston, R. I., is now located. In the bitterest of December weather, 
the English, over a thousand strong, marched all one day and night 
through forests and swamps to Pattyswamscott, Over four hundred 
of their number were overcome by the piercing cold, but the re 
mainder of the English pressed on. They had the bull-dog stuff 
their kinsmen showed at Waterloo and their descendants exhibited 
at Little Round Top. They completely surprised Philip, and routed 
him after a desperate battle of six hours. Seven hundred warriors 
were killed, and probably over three hundred died from their wounds. 
Philip was killed not long after. The battle of Pattyswamscott de 
stroyed all hopes the Indians had of success in that part of New 
England, and they gradually withdrew until forced out completely 
by the French and Indian wars. The importance of the victory at 
Pattyswamscott was recognized by the Massachusetts General Court 
in 1685, in grants of lands to the soldiers and their survivors. Among 
those who received land were Bartholomew and Eleazer Hamlin, sons 
of James, who marched in Captain Gorham s company. In his com 
pany of one hundred men, thirty were killed, including Captain Gor- 
ham, and forty were wounded. The land the Hamlins received is 
now the site of the town of Gorham, Maine, but it does not appear 
that they ever claimed it. 

The French and Indian wars followed, and in this struggle between 
the English and the French for the supremacy of this continent, the 
seeds of American nationality were sown. The colonies had little in 
common up to this time. New York was settled by the Dutch, who 
had no love for the Pilgrims and Puritans of New England. Penn 
sylvania was settled by the Quakers, who were disliked by their 
neighbors. The Southern Cavaliers were, moreover, a race by them 
selves. But a common interest drew the colonies together in the five 


French and Indian wars. The success of the French would mean 
that the country would be Catholicized, and so Pilgrim, Puritan, 
Knickerbocker, and Cavalier fought for their religious independence 
side by side until the fall of Quebec, which is now ranked as the 
greatest event in the history of this continent since its discovery. 
Many Hamlins fought in the French and Indian wars. Among the 
descendants of James was Gersham Hamlin, who is supposed to have 
fallen by the side of Wolfe at Quebec, or in a battle fought by the 
Earl of Loudon. Seth Hamlin, of Barnstable, was a lieutenant. 
Jacob, another kinsman, of the Cape Cod family, and who was one 
of the first of his race to come to Maine, was one of the pioneers of 
Gorham who held the fort of that town against the assaults of the 
Pequakets and their allies. He was afterwards a prominent business 
man of Gorham. It is among the records of that old town that he 
gave a negro slave his freedom. 

The Hamlins continued to live in and around Barnstable a long 
time as an unbroken family, and their numbers rapidly increased. 
They are spoken of in the history and chronicles of Cape Cod as 
good citizens, church-going and patriotic people. James, the second 
son of the ancestor, was the father of ten children. His third son, 
Eleazer, through whom the descent of interest to this biography is 
preserved, was in turn the father of seven children. It was probably 
his son Benjamin who maintained the line, although the historians 
and genealogists do not agree on this point, since there were several 
Benjamin Hamlins at this time. His wife bore him eight children, 
the seventh of whom was Eleazer, the grandfather of Hannibal Ham 
lin, and a man of prominence in revolutionary times. He was born 
about 1737, and at an early age struck out for himself. He settled 
in Pembroke, Mass., where he became a large farmer, and married 
Lydia Bonney, who bore him eleven children. She died, and he 
married a widow named Bryant, who presented him with six more 
children, so that when the war of independence broke out Eleazer 
Hamlin had a family of seventeen children and a large farm to take 
care of ; but he was a sturdy patriot, and his services in the Revolu 
tion are interesting and worthy of commemoration. 

Eleazer Hamlin is described as a large, powerful, and energetic 
man, with a kindly disposition and decidedly independent and original 
nature. He was well educated considering his opportunities, and had 
strong common sense and a shrewd knowledge of men. While he 
supported the church, it is quite evident that he had his own ideas 
about Puritanism and thoroughly enjoyed life. One amusing illustra 
tion of his originality is his attack on the nomenclature that had been 
handed down and preserved with a clannish-like tenacity in the Hamlin 
family for many generations. In the annals of the grim Cape Cod 


era of his family Eleazer Hamlin found an array of Biblical and sym 
bolical names like Job, Thankful, Experience, Desire, Elkanah, Be- 
thias, Melanthiah, Mehetable, Shobal, Ichabod, Deliverance, Content,- 
Zaccheus, Hopestill, Tobiatha, and Elnathan. He made a departure 
in the matter of nomenclature after a false start. He was well read 
on the history of war, and being a great admirer of Scipio Africanus, 
he named one of his eldest sons for that Roman general. But every 
body insisted on calling the lad Africa. This gave Hamlin a hint, and 
he called his son in honor of the continent of that name, and children 
that followed Africa were named America, Europe, and Asia. Twin 
sons were finally born, and these received the names of Hannibal and 
Cyrus, in honor of the Carthaginian and Persian generals. 

A story is told of Eleazer Hamlin s love of fun. One day he 
ordered two of his boys to do some work on his farm. Presently he 
heard them shouting with laughter, and proceeded to investigate the 
cause. A stream of water with high banks ran through his farm. On 
one of the banks were the boys, and a short distance away was a large 
ram, that belonged on the farm. The boys had a red handkerchief, 
and when they waved it the ram would rush at them, full tilt ; then 
the boys would drop quickly on the ground, and the ram, carried on 
by his weight, would go flying into the stream below. At first Hamlin 
was incensed at this disobedience of his orders. In stentorian tones 
he shouted, " Boys, what are you kiveering around here for ? Be 
gone about your business, sirs ! " While the crestfallen lads were 
slinking off to their work, their father stood on the bank, meditating 
on the ram and wondering if he enjoyed the boy s fun as much as 
would appear. There seemed but one way to find out, and that was 
to make a test himself. He took out his own red handkerchief and 
signaled to the ram, who accepted the challenge and started for his 
master. But, alas for Mr. Hamlin ; he was too heavy to move as 
quickly as his sons ; the ram struck him fair and square in the back. 
The ram and Eleazer went over the bank together, unable to stop 
themselves. The boys, hearing the ram charge, ran up on the scene 
just in time to see their astonished parent throw up a veritable geyser 
as he struck the water full force. The boys shrieked with laughter, 
and one of them shouted : " Oh, father, what are you kiveering 
around here for ? " Mr. Hamlin was at first disposed to resent this, 
but his sense of humor led him to see the affair in its right light. 
He joined his sons in their laugh, and told the story himself. 

But the real stuff in Eleazer Hamlin was revealed in the war of 
independence. He was one of the first to favor separation ; his home 
was the centre for the yeomanry of Pembroke. There they heard 
the latest news of the growing troubles between the colonies and the 
mother country, the appointment of mercenary colonial governors, 


the selfish exactions of the London merchants, the preemption of 
trade in certain articles between the colonies, compulsory trade with 
England alone, taxation without representation, and the obstinate 
refusal of George the Third to listen to true English demands for fair 
play. The climax of oppression was reached when British soldiers 
were stationed in Boston to enforce obnoxious laws. Patriots began 
to arm themselves ; minute men prepared for action. The night Paul 
Revere spread the alarm, Eleazer Hamlin, his two elder sons, Africa 
and Asia, and his son-in-law, Seth Phillips, marched in Captain Hatch s 
company, Eleazer as a lieutenant, to Scituate, and remained there 
eleven days ready for duty. Pit cairn s attack on Lexington and Con 
cord aroused the country ; minute men poured in from all sides, troops 
were formed. Eleazer Hamlin was appointed captain in a Massachu 
setts regiment in command of General Durant, in May, 17/5. Africa 
and Asia, aged seventeen and sixteen respectively, and Phillips, served 
in Captain Hamlin s company, and with him marched into Cambridge 
on July 3, to join the army of fifteen thousand men assembled there 
to receive Washington as their commander. 

The Hamlins were in Washington s command, and therefore saw 
a great deal of him. Africa, who served to the close of the war, kept 
a diary, 1 in which he recorded much of personal interest about Wash 
ington, Knox, Lafayette, Pulaski, Rochambeau, Hamilton, and other 
leaders of the Continental army. It is said to have been a voluminous 
record, and after the war was widely read throughout Massachusetts 
by old soldiers to whom Africa loaned it. Unfortunately the diary 
was not returned after Africa Hamlin s death, and no trace of it can 
be found. But family tradition respecting this diary and the views 
the Revolutionary Hamlins held of Washington tend to represent 
him as a man of a more human nature, of warmer affections and more 
passionate disposition, than he is represented by the statuesque pic 
tures drawn of him in the last century. Washington s personality 
was an immense factor in his success. He had to face the most dif 
ficult undertaking that ever confronted an American soldier and 
leader. Only a minority of the American people openly advocated 
separation from the mother country at the outbreak of the war. The 
majority thought that armed resistance would bring Parliament to its 
senses, if Pitt, Fox, Burke, and other fair-minded English statesmen 
could not. The American Tories and Washington s personal bitter 
enemies, like Charles Lee, who tried to betray him on the battlefield, 
were difficulties that only a Titan could overcome. But Washing 
ton bound his men to him with hooks of steel, and, half starved, 
half frozen at times, always inadequately armed, they followed him 
wherever he led. Personal affection as well as patriotism must have 
1 See My Life and Times, autobiography of the Rev. Dr. Cyrus Hamlin. 


played a great part in keeping Washington s men together under his 
flag in all their long trials. 

The three Hamlins fought in the disastrous battle of Long Island,. 
Eleazer being the fifth line captain in Colonel Bailey s 23d regi 
ment of foot, Clinton s brigade, which Washington s strategy saved 
from becoming a rout by withdrawing at night. They served in the 
New Jersey campaign, at Trenton and Princeton, which Fred 
erick the Great pronounced to Washington s credit as "the most 
brilliant campaign of the century." Captain Hamlin at this time, to 
his great regret, had to return home ; his wife had fallen ill, and she 
died shortly afterwards. With a family of fourteen or fifteen children, 
and a large farm to take care of, the situation peremptorily demanded 
Captain Hamlin s presence at home. An official report regarding 
certain of Captain Hamlin s acts commends his work, and speaks of 
his "gallant bearing as an officer " and "his fair fame as a gentleman." 
When he tendered his resignation Washington gave him several hun 
dred dollars in Continental money as a token of his personal regard, 
the gift signifying more than the money itself. Africa and Asia 
remained in the army, and were joined by their brother America, 
whose name was subsequently abbreviated to Merrick, and who was a 
powerful dare-devil young fellow of seventeen, and as good a shot as 
his brothers. 

One very serious obstacle Washington had to contend with was the 
short terms for which men were enlisted. Men would enlist for a few 
months and return home satisfied that they had done their duty. 
Africa Hamlin, who had the best military record of his family, refused 
to take advantage of the short term of service, and reeniisted every 
time his term expired. He was thus continuously in the field nearly 
seven years, with the exception of one furlough of a fortnight. Enter 
ing the army as a lad, Africa was promoted to be a corporal when he 
was nineteen, a sergeant-major when he was twenty-one, and on Jan 
uary i, 1781, he was commissioned an ensign, carrying the Continental 
banner when Cornwallis was enmeshed at Yorktown, the most crush 
ing defeat the British arms ever received. He appears to have been 
a quiet, modest man, and well regarded by his superior officers. An 
amusing incident is- told that illustrates the young ensign s modesty. 
He was invited by Washington to a state dinner, and unluckily upset 
a dish of gravy. To quote his quaint words : " The circumstance 
covered me with so much confusion that I withdrew, and did not ac 
cept any more invitations to these grand occasions." Another cir 
cumstance establishes his status among his brother officers. Africa 
Hamlin was one of the officers of the Continental army who assembled 
at Newburg, N. Y., and founded the Society of the Cincinnati. 

When Eleazer Hamlin returned to Pembroke, he entered the state 


militia, and was appointed major, by which title he was known the 
rest of his life. His second wife having died, Major Hamlin married 
again, and his courtship is still a choice story in the annals of the 
town of Harvard, where he carried on a large farm and potash works. 
He made the acquaintance of Mistress Grace Fletcher, a snug, cosy 
woman, a relative of Daniel Webster s wife, and who owned a little tav 
ern on a farm in Westford. Mistress Fletcher was noted in the neigh 
borhood for her amiability and palatable flip. Major Hamlin called 
for a glass one day, and, as he was smacking his lips over it, remarked, 
" Monstrous fine flip, Mistress Fletcher." The next day the major 
strode into the tavern and called for another glass of that " monstrous 
fine flip." The third day the major made his appearance in his best 
clothes. With a gallant bow he said : " And now I have come for 
the fine woman who brews the monstrous fine flip." He married her. 
Their farms made a handsome property, and Major Hamlin thus 
became one of the largest landowners in that part of the State. 

After the war was over, the Massachusetts General Court gave 
Major Hamlin and his sons some grants of land in the District of 
Maine in return for their services. Major Hamlin visited his land, 
and wrote a sarcastic letter to the General Court, advising it to return 
the land to its original inhabitants, who happened to be bears. But 
Africa, Merrick, Eleazer, Jr., Cyrus, and Hannibal decided to push 
their way into Maine, and cultivate their fortunes there. Africa mar 
ried Susannah Stone, of Groton, and settled where the town of 
Waterford is now located. He was one of the incorporators of the 
town, and held various positions of trust in its government. He was 
Waterford s first town clerk. He was also appointed colonel in the 
state militia, and was thereafter known by that title. Hannibal and 
Merrick also settled in Waterford. A story is still told in Waterford 
of his jovial, dare-devil disposition. One day while walking through 
Hamlin s grant, as his father s land was still called, Merrick met one 
of the original inhabitants face to face. The bear rushed at Mer 
rick, and having only the arms that nature gave him, he put them to 
good use. In the words of a quaint and humorous chronicler of the 
times, " Merrick pelted the bear with stones into a pit, and thereby 
obtained a juicy bear-steak." Another venturesome son of Eleazer 
Hamlin was George, who was born during the war of independence. 
He, too, had fighting blood. Hannibal Hamlin s father told him that 
George went to Russia, entered the army of the Czar, and was an 
officer in the later Napoleonic campaigns. But nothing more defi 
nite was known of him. 

The only one of the four brothers who did not settle in Waterford 
was Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, the father of Hannibal Hamlin. He and his 
twin Hannibal were born at Harvard on July u, 1769. Cyrus pur- 


sued a course of study for several terms at the Medical School of 
Harvard College, and, as was customary at that time, finished his 
preparation for the practice of his profession in the office of an expe 
rienced physician, without taking a degree. He probably resembled 
his interesting father more closely than any other of Eleazer s sons. 
He was of commanding size, standing six feet, in height, and in his 
prime weighing over two hundred pounds. His cheeks had a ruddy 
tint and his eyes were blue ; but his thickly grown, jet-black hair and 
bushy eyebrows gave a dark tone to his general appearance. He had 
his father s kindly and large-hearted disposition and a strong and well 
balanced mind. He had a shrewd knowledge of men ; he knew how 
to make friends. He loved a good dinner ; he could tell a story in 
capital style. His air of good-fellowship drew people to him. He 
was a good scholar and ranked well as a physician. 

Coming to Maine, Dr. Hamlin heard that a physician was needed 
in the town of Livermore, not far from Waterford, in Oxford County, 
which had been founded by Deacon Elijah Livermore, who had come 
to Maine from Watertown, Mass., a picturesque pioneer and a man 
of uncommon force of individuality and integrity of character. It was 
the custom in some parts of New England for towns to elect their 
physicians, and Livermore prepared to do this. Deacon Livermore 
practically ruled the town, and it appears had decided on a physician 
already when Dr. Hamlin came on the scene. By a curious coinci 
dence both physicians had fallen in love with Deacon Livermore s 
daughter Anna. She favored Dr. Hamlin, and that spurred him on 
to greater efforts. The deacon, however, stood by his own man, and, 
to his amazement, Dr. Hamlin carried the election. But when the 
deacon grasped the situation, and understood that Dr. Hamlin was 
the choice of his daughter s heart, he gracefully acquiesced, cele 
brated the wedding in good old-fashioned style, and pushed his son- 
in-law s fortunes with zeal. Through his influence Dr. Hamlin was 
appointed clerk of the courts of Oxford County, when it was formed 
in 1805, which position and that of probate judge and sheriff he held 
a great many years. 

This union between the Hamlins and Livermores was a happy one 
in many ways. The Livermores were one of the first families to 
settle in New England, and some of its representatives are among 
New England s ablest men. The most distinguished Livermore of 
this period was Samuel Livermore, of Holderness, N. H., and the 
brother of Dr. Hamlin s father-in-law. He was a member of the Con 
tinental Congress, for many years United States senator, president 
pro tempore of the Senate two sessions, and finally chief justice of 
New Hampshire. He was a man of great ability, and his sound judg 
ment, learning, and coolness gave him weight in the inner councils of 


Congress in shaping legislation. His brother Elijah might have dis 
tinguished himself had he entered public life, for he had the ability. 
A descendant of his, George Livermore, the antiquarian, of Cam 
bridge, Mass., possessed some of these qualities, although he never 
sought a public career. His writings l on the slavery question greatly 
impressed Abraham Lincoln, and show that he was one of the safe, 
sagacious, and far-seeing advisers whom great men call to their 
aid, and of whom the public at the time heard little. It is an inter 
esting fact that Hannibal Hamlin and George Livermore so closely 
resembled each other in their features that they might have passed 
for brothers. 

Anna Livermore, on her mother s side, also inherited the best of 
New England blood. Her mother was Hannah Clark, whose ances 
tor, Hugh Clark, was a Pilgrim, and settled in Massachusetts contem 
poraneously with James Hamlin and the pioneer Livermore. His 
great-grandson, Captain John Clark, of Waltham, was the father of 
Mrs. Livermore. He was a man of prominence, and a near kins 
man of Jonas Clark, the famous patriotic minister of Lexington. 
He was a great power in the days of 75. Edward Everett said of 
him : " He was of a class of citizens who rendered services second 
to none in enlightening and animating the popular mind on the 
great question at issue." The night of Paul Revere s ride, John Han 
cock and Samuel Adams came to him and asked him if the people 
of Lexington would fight. He replied : " I have trained them for 
this very hour ; they will fight, and, if need be, die, too, under the 
shadow of the house of God." On the next day, April 19, the first 
blood of the American Revolution was shed in Lexington within a 
few rods of Clark s house. The men who gave up their lives were 
among Jonas Clark s parishioners. When the old patriot saw their 
bodies, he said : " From this day will be dated the liberty of the 

Anna Livermore Hamlin s rounded character and womanly disposi 
tion shone in her eyes. She was patient and devoted, always ener 
getic, yet not given to talking. She had New England s religious 
and domestic ideals and was loyal to them, but she influenced by 
gentle example and sweet suasion, and she had great persistence. 
Hannibal inherited some of his best qualities from his mother. Dur 
ing the earlier years of their married life Dr. Hamlin and his wife 
made their home in Livermore, where several of their children were 
born, Elijah, Vesta, and Anna. At the same time the Washburn 

1 He wrote an Historical Research, respecting the opinions of the founders of 
the republic on negroes as slaves, as citizens, and as soldiers. President Lincoln 
read this book, and sent Livermore the pen with which he wrote the Emancipa 
tion Proclamation. 


family lived in Livermore, where the Washburn brothers were all 
born, and grew up with the young Hamlins as playmates until they 
removed to Paris Hill. With the exception of the Fields, no Amer 
ican brothers have surpassed the Washburns in attaining collective 
and individual distinction. Elihu B. was the " Father of the House " 
and United States minister to France ; Israel was once a leading 
member of the House and Maine s war governor ; Cadwallader was 
a major-general in the Union army and a member of the House ; 
Charles was a successful diplomat and editor, and William D., the 
youngest, has been a member of the Senate. 

In 1805 Paris Hill became the shire town of Oxford County, and 
Dr. Hamlin removed to the Hill. At this time the court used to sit 
in the old Baptist meeting-house, and was called together by the beat 
ing of a drum, the drummer standing at the northwest corner of the 



PARIS HILL stands near the Androscoggin Valley. It is an emi 
nence that rises by steady degrees to a commanding height. A 
panoramic scene of great beauty rolls away on all sides of the Hill. 
The valley stretches on both sides, broken by forests and villages, 
to ranges of hills and mountains that nearly encompass the Hill 
within a neighborly distance. The foothills of the White Moun 
tains are discernible to the west, and on a clear summer day the eye 
can see the summits of the mountains faintly shimmering in the hazy 
distance. There is a calm, tranquil atmosphere about the scene that 
comes from the restful and protecting mountains which tower up 
majestically around the Hill. The air is vitalizing. The little village 
that nestles on the summit of the Hill is a veritable home in the heart 
of nature. When the sun sets a pretty legend is recalled of an Indian 
who, standing on the Hill centuries ago one evening, as the sun was 
sinking and filling the landscape with its rays, exclaimed in his tongue : 
" Tis the smile of the Creator." No more poetic or more appro 
priate description has yet been given to the scene around Paris Hill. 
It is one of the loveliest scenes of nature in all New England. 

At the foot of the Hill lies South Paris. On the east are Buckfield 
and Hebron. On the west are Norway and Waterford, and not many 
miles off is Fryeburg, where Daniel Webster once kept school. Many 
a homelike settlement is to be found throughout the valley. Scores 
of pretty trout brooks wend their way through the woods. Once 
game abounded ; once the red man built his wigwam in this region. 
The warlike Pequakets ruled for years, and many a story of the bloody 
war of extermination which raged between the English settlers and 
the Indians has been handed down, and is told to-day around the fire 
sides of Paris Hill. One, which introduces a figure of personal inter 
est, the Princess Mollyockett, daughter of Paugus, the chief of the 
Pequakets, is the battle of Lovewell s Pond. The English settlers of 
Maine found after nearly half a century of irregular warfare that with 
the Jesuit lurking around the scene it was impossible to make a peace 
with the Indians that they would keep. After a series of frightful 
massacres in 1724, Captain John Lovewell, one of Maine s bravest 
sons, determined to drive the Pequakets out of Maine. With only 


forty-six men Lovewell penetrated to the Pequaket village, which 
was where Fryeburg now stands, and gave battle a whole day to a 
superior number of Indians. English bravery and tactics won. 
Paugus was killed, and having lost their leader, the Pequakets sullenly 
withdrew to Canada, and the Indian power in Maine was forever 
broken. Before the battle Paugus buried his treasure in a mountain 
within sight of Paris Hill. Mollyockett was the sole survivor of 
Lovewell s battle who knew the treasure s hiding-place. A fire that 
swept over the mountain destroyed Mollyockett s landmarks, and for 
years she haunted the place, searching for her lost treasure. She 
lived to be fully one hundred years old, and when the Hamlins came 
to Paris Hill she looked like a veritable Meg Merrilies of the woods. 
But she was a kindly old creature, as the Hamlins had good reason to 
believe, and as will appear later. 

Paris Hill was a very homelike little village, peopled by pioneer 
families of Maine. Emery, Carter, Rawson, Parris, Stowell, Ryerson, 
Cummings, Hubbard, were among the familiar names of the day, and 
some of them are still represented in the families of the Hill. There 
was an unusually large number of talented and cultivated people living 
on the Hill, and the life of the place was exceptionally pleasant and 
neighborlike. The college element was large for a town of this size ; 
Harvard, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Brown, Waterville, and Union were 
all represented at Paris Hill during this and subsequent periods. 
During Dr. Hamlin s early life at Paris Hill, a group of men lived 
there who exerted no little influence in shaping the course of Maine 
in her opening year of statehood. First was Enoch Lincoln, one of 
Maine s early governors and representatives in Congress. Another 
was Albion K. Parris, five times governor of the State and also a 
United States senator. A third was Judge Stephen A. Emery, 
Hannibal Hamlin s father-in-law. He was a man of scholarly mind, 
pure character, and serene disposition. Although his tastes disin 
clined him to active participation in politics, yet his sound judgment 
and knowledge of political principles were sought by the Republican- 
Democratic party of Maine. Twice he was attorney-general of the 
State and for many years was judge of the probate and district courts. 
Two sons of Judge Emery, who inherited political and musical tastes 
from him, were George F. Emery, who was editor of the " Boston 
Post " for many years, and now a citizen of Portland ; and Stephen 
A. Emery, of Boston, who was one of the most useful and widely 
respected scholars of music New England has yet produced. 

Dr. Hamlin built a fine colonial mansion on top of the Hill, and 
cleared a large farm in the immediate vicinity of his house. His 
home became a social and political centre. Enoch Lincoln lived at 
Dr. Hamlin s house for many years. In front of the Hamlin house 


was the village common, and the young people of the town found the 
doctor s home an attractive place. Dr. Hamlin acquired a consider 
able reputation throughout the county as a specialist in children s 
diseases. It is related on Paris Hill that children instinctively recog 
nized him as their natural friend. He was eventually appointed 
sheriff of Oxford County, and in accordance with the requirements 
of the time wore during the session of court a dress-sword, cocked 
hat, blue coat, and brass buttons ; but in spite of these insignia of 
office and his imposing size, the children of the town would follow 
him around, climb all over him when they found him sitting in his 
porch, and make him tell them stories. Yet he was very dignified in 
the performance of his duties, adhering strictly to the ideas of the 
Federal party, to which he belonged. He had also strong ideas of his 
duties to his own children and brought them up accustomed to work. 
His wife was a perfect helpmate and very active ; in fact, she had 
the athletic nature for which the pioneer mothers of New England 
were noted, and yet it never seemed incompatible with her serene 
character, quiet and loving disposition. It rather illustrated her 
courage and sense of duty. One story is told on Paris Hill to-day 
about Mrs. Hamlin s pluck. Among Mr. Hamlin s duties as sheriff 
was keeping the jail, which stood near his house. One day the prison 
ers, led by a turbulent scamp, knowing that Dr. Hamlin was not at 
home, endeavored to force their way out of prison. Mrs. Hamlin, 
hearing the noise, rushed on the scene. The jail door had been par 
tially forced open, and the ringleader was trying to push himself 
through the opening. Mrs. Hamlin instantly seized the man by the 
throat, choked him into submission, and thrusting him into the corridor 
fastened the door tight. In connection with this incident, to illustrate 
his mother s agility, Hannibal Hamlin used to tell his sons how he 
had often seen her place her hand on the back of a horse and without 
any assistance leap from the ground into the saddle. 

Another view of the life and influences of Paris Hill is seen through 
the preacher of the village, Elder James Hooper. He was a quaint 
old Puritan, albeit he held certain worldly ideas and eccentric notions ; 
but he was the personification of conscientiousness and adhered to his 
radical views with iron-like tenacity, nor did he hesitate to differ from 
his church when he thought it was wrong. He preached twice every 
Sunday at the old Baptist church, and was noted not for long ser 
mons, but for short, pithy, and original discourses. Indeed, brevity 
was one of his hobbies. Once a long-winded visiting minister, who 
had been announced to preach twice at Elder Hooper s church, bored 
the congregation to the point of slumber in the morning service. 
When he had at last closed, Elder Hooper electrified his drowsy 
parishioners by rising and saying in his peculiar, snappy way: " There 


will be preaching in this church this afternoon, because I myself will 
preach." If the elder saw a rainstorm approaching when he was in 
the midst of a sermon, he would dismiss his congregation at once, 
telling the men that it was " better to get the hay in than to listen to 
any sermon." The elder had no patience with "new-fangled notions." 
When women s rights were being discussed at Paris Hill, Elder 
Hooper, in the pulpit, announced his opposition, and in this unique 
sentence gave his reasons : " Men and dogs roam abroad ; women 
and cats should stay at home." 

When the Temperance Union began its national crusade, Parson 
Hooper stormed at it in his original way. " God sent rum to us, and 
therefore it is a blessing if we know how to use it," he used to argue. 
By way of illustration, the elder said : " I gave my two boys rum and 
molasses this morning. Did it hurt them ? No ; you ought to have 
seen their eyes shine." Now Dr. Hamlin not only sympathized with 
the temperance movement, for there was a great deal of drinking 
in Maine, but also circulated a pledge and would allow no liquor in 
his house. This offended Elder Hooper, and for a long time he 
refused to visit Dr. Hamlin s house. But in spite of his eccentricities 
Elder Hooper accomplished a good work and was very much re 
spected and beloved by his parishioners. His real goodness of heart 
was illustrated in the fact that the two sons mentioned were both 
adopted by him, although he barely eked out a living by preaching. 

In the summer of 1809 there were five children in Dr. Hamlin s 
family, Elijah, Eliza, Anne, Vesta, and Cyrus. On August 27 a 
sixth child, a boy, was born. About this time Dr. Hamlin and his 
twin brother Hannibal, of Waterford, had promised each other that 
if each should become the father of another son he would name the 
child after his brother. Dr. Hamlin, therefore, christened this son 
Hannibal Hamlin, and subsequently Hannibal Hamlin, of Waterford, 
had occasion to name a son Cyrus. This is how Hannibal Hamlin, 
the statesman, and the Rev. Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, the famous Ameri 
can missionary to Turkey and the founder of Robert College, received 
their respective names. It is an odd coincidence that both boys were 
sickly and puny infants. Hannibal s life, indeed, hung by a thread ; 
but a somewhat dramatic incident occurred which probably turned 
the scales in favor of the child. As Mrs. Hamlin was sitting in her 
doorway one day, rocking her feeble infant, old Mollyockett, the 
Indian princess, appeared. She looked at the child very intently for 
a short time, and then said with great earnestness to Mrs. Hamlin : 
"You give papoose milk warm from cow, or he die." As the infant s 
lack of vitality baffled Dr. Hamlin s skill, he and his wife tried the 
remedy suggested by Mollyockett. The result was instantly favor 
able ; the child thrived with great rapidity, and was soon a lusty, 
healthy boy. He rarely knew ill health again. 


A few years after Hannibal s birth one more child, a daughter, 
named Hannah, was born to Dr. Hamlin and his wife. Thus they 
had a household of seven children. Elijah, the oldest son, resembled 
his father in build, looks, and disposition, although his complexion was 
of the swarthy type. He was a natural scholar and wit, the col 
lege-mate, friend, and correspondent 1 of Dr. Samuel G. Howe. He 
was a student at Brown University when Hannibal began to go to 
school, and thus Hannibal was thrown into closer relations with his 
brother Cyrus at the time a boy craves sympathy and advice from an 
older brother. Cyrus was of a sweet, sedate nature, and pure char 
acter. Probably the premonition of an oncoming fatal disease, con 
sumption, matured him far beyond his years. He devoted himself to 
his young brother, taught him how to farm, and through gentle tact 
and kindness exercised more influence over him than any one else 
save Hannibal s mother. To the end of his life Hannibal Hamlin 
never spoke of his brother Cyrus without emotion, or paying him an 
affectionate tribute. Cyrus was to Hannibal Hamlin what Ezekiel 
Webster was to his great brother Daniel. Hannibal s older sister, 
Vesta, resembled him somewhat in the gentler qualities of his nature 
and habits of thought, and was a sympathetic companion. Anna was 
a quiet, affectionate sister; Hannah, the arch and merry pet of the 
family. Eliza, the eldest daughter, was in some respects a remark 
able woman. She possessed great executive ability, and for years 
was famous as the schoolmistress of Paris Hill, and one of the best 
botanists in the State. She might have attained prominence in other 
departments of life if she had lived where her gifts would have had 
fuller scope. 

As a child Hannibal Hamlin evinced a sturdy, independent nature. 
He was very affectionate and not a little mischievous. His vitality 
was extraordinary when he was old enough to play out of doors and 
take care of himself. He bubbled over with fun and good-nature. 
There was no malice in his pranks, his mother said, but they were the 
result of an overflowing nature. Hannibal Hamlin s first recollection 
of his childhood days was when he was three years old. The war of 
1812 had broken out, and he saw a company of soldiers march away 
from Paris Hill. The red nodding plumes and shining accoutrements 
of the soldiers made a picture in his mind that never faded out. 
When the veterans of the war returned home, they had many stories 
to tell about the battles. Hannibal, who was a boy of seven or eight 
by this time, was deeply interested, in the battle of New Orleans, and 
thenceforth Andrew Jackson was one of his greatest heroes. 

Hannibal s aggressive nature was illustrated about this time by an 

1 Elijah Hamlin discovered Mt. Mica, the famous tourmaline deposit near 
Paris Hill, now owned by his son, Dr. Augustus C. Hamlin, of Bangor. 


incident told by his cousin, Cyrus Hamlin. In jumping over a fence 
one day Hannibal fell and broke his arm. His father was away from 
home and another doctor set the injured member. A few days later 
it was discovered that the bones had not been set right. The same 
doctor, without a word of warning, seized the arm and snapped the 
partially joined bones apart. Instantly Hannibal, doubling up his 
other fist, struck the bungling physician a sound thump on the end 
of his nose. It was a vigorous blow for a youngster of his years, and 
at first the doctor thought something had been broken. But after 
finding Hannibal had only drawn blood, the doctor spluttered : "Well, 
young man, I won t touch you again unless you are strapped down." 

Hannibal attended the village school at Paris Hill. This was an 
excellent school for its time. Judge Emery, who led his class at 
Bowdoin, Governor Lincoln, who was a Harvard man, and Dr. Hamlin 
were on the town committee, and took a pride in maintaining a school 
of high standard. Hannibal, therefore, had a good schooling in his 
childhood. But while he was regarded as a bright boy in school, he 
was not a model pupil as far as rank and prizes were concerned. He 
seemed to learn with perfect ease, and never forgot what he learned. 
Too full of life and activity to be kept down at his books, he 
wanted to be out of doors. What he shone best in was athletic 
sports. He seemed to have been a leader among the boys of his age 
at Paris Hill, from the time he came among them to the time he left 
them. He was especially fond of round ball, from which our national 
game of baseball was evoluted, wrestling, running, and jumping. He 
was very loyal to his friends, and always had a crowd of boys around 
him. He was very fond of pets. He particularly liked horses and 
dogs ; in fact, there never was a time in his life when he did not have 
a dog. 

Hannibal Hamlin s individuality as a boy was so pronounced and 
his traits so clearly defined that old friends of his who survived him 
remembered him perfectly as he was when a lad of fifteen or sixteen, 
playing among them at Paris Hill. One description of him at this 
age says : " Han, as we always called him, was an unusually large 
boy for his age. He was as tall, straight, supple, and dark as a young 
Indian. He was very warm-hearted, affectionate, and magnetic ; his 
big black eyes twinkled with fun and life. Han was always our 
leader, and yet he never appeared to put himself forward ; it was 
natural for us to wait to see what Han was going to do, and then 
follow him. Sometimes we would get into a boyish scrape, but Han 
always stuck by us ; he would go where we would. He never bragged 
what he was going to do, or had done, but he would go ahead and 
do it, and say nothing. He was perfectly natural and honest ; no 
one ever thought of questioning his word." In connection with this, 


Cyrus Hamlin, who often came over from Waterford to visit his 
cousins at Paris Hill, wrote: "In running, jumping, and wrestling 
Hannibal could beat us all. And it was easy for us to be beaten, 
because Hannibal was so fair-minded. There was an absence in him 
of any disposition to exult over a fallen foe. As a boy, Hannibal was 
as fair-minded, honest, and incorruptible as he was when a man. The 
boy was father to the man." 

When Hannibal grew older his fondness for out-of-door life devel 
oped into his ruling passion. He was a born Nimrod, fisherman, and 
farmer. Bears, deer, rabbits, squirrels, partridges, and trout abounded 
around Paris Hill. About this time a story was told of an adventure 
a couple of little children had within a mile of the Hill. When they 
were walking along the main road one of them stopped and exclaimed 
to the other, " Oh, see that funny brown cow without any horns. 
Let s go play with her." They started to play with their new bovine 
curiosity, but fortunately the bear had business in another direction, 
and did not wait for the children. Hannibal used to scour the moun 
tains and neighboring country for game and fish. He became a crack 
shot and a true fisherman. He seemed to find trout brooks by intui 
tion, and eventually cared more for fishing than for hunting. When 
once he found a trout brook in an out-of-the-way place, he kept his 
secret to himself and one or two of his cronies. Years afterwards 
he would go back to Paris Hill to drink in the vitalizing air, and to 
fish. People around the Hill said that he could still find his secret 
trout brook, and no one else could. 

As a result of his vigorous out-of-door life, Hannibal was an uncom 
monly powerful lad when he was sixteen or seventeen years old. 
Looked up to by his companions as their champion, Hannibal learned 
at this time what fame was. His reputation as an athlete spread. 
In those days wrestling was a favorite athletic sport, and a match 
between village champions was a great event. In a neighboring dis 
trict lived a young blacksmith who was a champion wrestler. He 
challenged Hannibal to a match, each to strip to the waist and wrestle 
barefooted. Hannibal accepted, and the common in front of Dr. 
Hamlin s house was chosen as the place. There was great excite 
ment among Hannibal s friends, and a good-sized crowd gathered on 
the scene of the struggle. As the blacksmith appeared, his advan 
tage in size, weight, and strength was very apparent, and Hannibal s 
friends were discouraged. The blacksmith was very confident, but 
it was his confidence that beat him. Swinging his powerful arms 
around in fanciful feints to awe Hannibal, the blacksmith began to 
brag: "If I ketch a holt on yer, I won t let yer tech me." As 
the blacksmith said this he made a sweep of his arms that exposed 
him. Hannibal was not awed by this demonstration, but quick as a 


flash darted on the blacksmith, and grabbing him around the waist 
thumped him so hard on the ground that he saw stars. There was 
a great shout from the excited Paris Hill boys, and they danced and 
hugged each other for joy. The crestfallen blacksmith slowly arose, 
and said, "Anyhow, he ain t a scientific wrestler." There was an 
other shout, and Hiram Hubbard retorted, J Han has n t got any use 
for science when he can beat it in his own way." The blacksmith 
was satisfied, and the match was over almost before it began. No 
more champions disputed Hannibal s supremacy. This match was 
long a favorite story at Paris Hill, and generally when a story of 
another match was told, it was closed with the remark, "But you 
ought to have seen Han Hamlin throw that blacksmith." 1 

Hannibal was a born politician, and showed a strong interest in 
politics when a young lad. He thought out political questions for 
himself and acted for himself. A circumstance happened when Han 
nibal was about seventeen that contributed to the formation of his 
political principles, and also demonstrates the lad s perfect independ 
ence and habit of self-reliance. Dr. Hamlin was a loyal Federalist in 
his early days, and on the death of the Federal party he became an 
ardent Whig. Elijah was also a Whig, and he and his father regu 
larly read the " Portland Gazette," the Whig organ of the State, and 
as Hannibal was the youngest he had to wait his turn. Dr. Hamlin 
also subscribed for the " Eastern Argus," a leading Democratic news 
paper of the day, and while waiting for the " Gazette " the boy fell 
into the habit of reading the "Argus." Finding that it expressed the 
same faith in Democracy that he had, Hannibal came to prefer the 
"Argus," and before his father realized it Hannibal had become a 
pronounced Democrat, and a warm partisan of the doctrines of Jeffer 
son and Jackson. 

Dr. Hamlin was too liberal a man to interfere with his son s con 
victions, and as he was a good politician himself he probably foresaw 
the rising ascendency of the Republican-Democratic party in Maine. 
He was a close listener to what his boys had to say on political 
subjects, and sometimes gave them good advice. Hannibal then, as 

1 One who was a chum of Hannibal Hamlin in boyhood days tells me that 
Hamlin even then was distinguished for great strength of body. On one occa 
sion, when, clustered in the village grocery, a number of Paris youths tried one by 
one to lift a pig of lead, Hannibal was the only one who succeeded in raising it 
above his head. From the night of the lead-lifting incident, when Hamlin proba 
bly was twenty years old, my informant did not see the strong lad until he saw 
him standing under a certain tree in Paris, addressing his fellow-townsmen. The 
strong lad was then Vice-President of the United States. The tree, by the way, 
Hamlin himself had planted. My informant, while on a visit to Paris about two 
weeks ago, visited the tree, which is now "six feet round," and as vigorous as was 
once its celebrated planter. Boston Globe, July 12, 1891. 


afterwards, was an intense partisan in principles, and would argue 
with great vehemence. One night he and Elijah had a heated dis 
cussion. Dr. Hamlin, who had been a quiet listener, interrupted 
Hannibal with a hearty laugh and a fatherly pat on the back : " Han 
nibal, my son, live a little longer, live a little longer, before you enter 
politics, and you will know more." Hannibal accepted his father s 
advice and all that it implied. He and Elijah thereupon agreed that 
they would never again discuss politics while differing from each 
other, and that, finally, they would never allow political principles or 
affiliations to cause the slightest difference in their brotherly rela 
tions. The boys shook hands on this agreement in a manly way, and 
although they even had to oppose each other in years to come, as the 
candidates of their respective parties, kept their word until they were 
released by the formation of the Republican party. 



DOCTOR HAMLIN believed in the advantages of a college education. 
He had been a student at the medical school of Harvard College, and 
in 1813 was one of the incorporators of Waterville College, now called 
Colby. He had sent Elijah to Brown University, and intended to 
give Hannibal also a college course. Accordingly, when Hannibal 
was about seventeen he began to prepare himself to enter Brown or 
Waterville. He went to Hebron, and some of the pleasantest days 
of his life were passed as a student at the historic academy in that 
town. Hannibal developed a fondness for the classics, and was quick 
at mathematics, but he showed a marked preference for history and 
biography, which he followed closely both in his school and leisure 
hours. The boys at Hebron came to lean on him as the boys at Paris 
Hill had. His leadership at Hebron was revealed in an amusing 
frolic, which, by the way, had much to do with determining young 
Hamlin s choice of his profession. 

The husking party was a popular institution among the farmers of 
Maine in those days. If a farmer had corn to husk, he invited his 
neighbors to help him, and in return for their assistance he provided 
a bounteous supply of the good things of the table ; and, as the tem 
perance sentiment of the State was still lax, old Medford and Jamaica 
rum were too often accompanying features of this old-time custom. 
To the young men the husking party was particularly attractive, 
because when a lucky husker found a red ear, the fashion of the day 
gave him the privilege of kissing any girl in the company, and thus 
the once famous couplet was originated : 

" I would not husk for cows or steers : 
I d only husk to get red ears." 

It is hardly necessary to add that the boys at Hebron Academy 
always accepted invitations to husking parties. But there was one 
thing in connection with these occasions that young Hamlin and his 
associates did not like, and that was the free use of liquor. At one 
memorable party an elderly man drank too much rum, and made him 
self particularly obnoxious. The schoolboys resented his behavior 
by pelting him with hard ears of corn, and rolling him round on the 


floor of the barn. The old man left the scene of his discomfiture sore 
in body and mind. The boys thought the affair had ended with the 
sobering-up of their victim, and the news the next morning that a 
warrant was out for their arrest, on the charge of assault and battery, 
came like a clap of thunder from the clear sky. But they did not 
think of employing a lawyer; they turned to Hannibal Hamlin in 
their trouble. They knew that he was in the habit of following trials 
with great interest, and at once concluded that he had picked up 
enough knowledge of the law which, together with his shrewdness 
and alertness, would enable him successfully to champion their cause. 
In a body the boys marched to the house of the local justice of the 
peace, where their trial was to take place. He was a pompous old 
gentleman, with great ideas of dignity, but little knowledge of the law, 
or much natural ability. The proceedings were opened with solem 
nity in the justice s kitchen packed with people, when the justice s 
ridiculous pomp and ceremony were interrupted by the collapse of 
the floor. The court, the boys, the kitchen utensils, a closet of crock 
ery, and the family cat were precipitated in a mass into the cellar. 
Above the uproar rose the laments of the justice bewailing the loss 
of his china and furniture. Nobody was hurt, and the boys tumbled 
out of the ruins in a state of hilarity, arguing and predicting among 
themselves that the case against them could not stand any better than 
the justice s floor. 

The trial was presently resumed in the academy, and Hannibal was 
placed on the witness stand. As he appeared before the court, 
confident, smiling, and his big, black eyes twinkling with fun, his 
companions pressed around him, buzzing and whispering, " Give it to 
him, Hannie ; give it to him," remarks that somewhat discon 
certed his honor. He called for order, and then with a frown asked 
Hannibal : 

" Did you throw any ear of corn at the plaintiff ? " 

" No, sir," replied Hannibal, with a twinkle in his eye, " I did not 
throw any ear of corn at the plaintiff." 

" Do you swear you did not ? " 

" I swear I did not," answered the boy. 

For a moment the court looked grave, and then asked, "Did you 
see anybody else throw any ear of corn at the plaintiff ? " 

"That," replied Hannibal with perfect coolness, "is a question 
which I cannot answer, and which your honor has no right to ask 

Then for fully five minutes Hannibal went on to cite law points in 
support of his position, all the time employing technical terms which 
were so much Greek to the justice, until that discomfited and com 
pletely crestfallen individual, greatly confused, and amidst loud laugh- 


ter, discharged Hamlin, and fined a number of the boys a dollar each, 
and then quickly adjourned the court. 1 

This incident turned young Hamlin s attention to the law as a desir 
able profession ; but while he was thinking of his college course and 
legal studies, his plans were upset by the sad news that his brother 
Cyrus was in failing health, and that he woyld have to return home 
and give up his college education that Cyrus might be relieved from 
his duties on the farm, to give all attention to his health. Hannibal 
had enjoyed less than a year s study at Hebron, but in that time he 
had practically fitted himself for entering college, although the re 
quirements for admission to college at that time were not of the high 
standard of later days. He had read his Caesar, Virgil, and some 
orations of Cicero, besides a little Greek, and had mastered algebra 
and plain geometry. This was practically all the education he obtained 
under the supervision of experienced instructors ; but he was always 
a friend and supporter of the American college, and regretted that he 
had been deprived of its benefit. 

The Hamlins home circle was now broken. Elijah, the eldest son, 
had married Eliza Choate, a relative of the Ipswich family of that 
name, and was practicing law at Columbia, Maine. Cyrus entered 
the Maine Medical School, to become a doctor. Vesta was engaged 
to Dr. Job Holmes, whom she soon married, and removed to Calais, 
Maine. This left Hannibal the only son at home, and his duties were, 
therefore, largely increased. He accepted the situation manfully, 
and he had compensation in the thought that in giving up cherished 
ambitions he was making some returns to a brother who had done so 
much for him. Subsequent events made it exceedingly fortunate both 
for the family and Hannibal that he returned home. Cyrus had made 
him an excellent farmer, and he could make every inch of tillable soil 
on the farm yield produce. Finally, Governor Lincoln was still living 
at the Hamlin homestead, and Hannibal had the advantage of his 
friendship and counsel, which proved to be of value. 

The relations between Enoch Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin in the 
latter s student days are interesting. Lincoln was sprung from 
the famous Lincoln family of Hingham, Massachusetts, from which 
the Emancipator was descended, and possessed some of the marked 
characteristics of the noblest representative of his race. His father 
was General Levi Lincoln, and his brother was Levi Lincoln, Jr., 
both of whom succeeded to the gubernatorial chair of Massachusetts. 
Enoch Lincoln was born in Worcester in 1788, was a student at Har 
vard for several years, and after reading law with his brother, removed 
to Fryeburg, Maine. The people of Paris Hill saw a good deal of 
Lincoln, and formed a high opinion of him. Dr. Hamlin probably 
1 Carroll s Twelve Americans, p. 119. 


met Lincoln during the sessions of the court at Paris Hill, and with 
others suggested to him that he take up his residence at that place, 
and represent the district in Congress when Maine should become a 
State. In 1819 Lincoln came to Paris Hill, and lived at Dr. Hamlin s 
home until 1826. When Maine became a State, in 1820, Lincoln was 
elected to Congress, and held his seat until 1825, when he resigned 
it to become governor. His popularity in Maine may be seen from 
the fact that he was chosen governor of the State three times by 
an almost unanimous vote. 

Lincoln was active in public affairs when the controversy of the 
admission of Missouri as a slave State severely agitated the country. 
He got a glimpse of the menacing spirit of the slave power, and it 
filled him with foreboding. He brooded over slavery and the probable 
consequences that would follow its perpetuation. He was not a man 
of action in the full sense of the word. His tastes ran to literature ; 
he was a scholar and poet. Slavery oppressed him as a moral wrong, 
and he denounced it. Dr. Hamlin was a sympathetic listener. Thus 
Hannibal Hamlin grew up in a strong anti-slavery atmosphere, and at 
the start imbibed the right practical ideas about the institution which 
he expressed in action as an anti-slavery leader. In connection with 
this it is interesting to recall some of Lincoln s words when he became 
governor, and which were formal expressions of his conversations at 
the Hamlins . In one of his state papers to the legislature of Maine, 
in speaking of the slaves he said : " But they are men, and no plea 
of private advantage or public policy can justify their enslavement, or 
palliate the enormities committed in stealing them from their native 
country, subduing them to obedience, and working them, as though 
they were beasts in human form. It is idle to talk of legal restraints 
upon men whose crimes are witnessed only by accomplices or suffer 
ers, of the former of whom the testimony would be evasive through 
interest and corruption, of the latter excluded by law. Indeed, when 
you have given power, you will legislate in vain about its exercise, and 
if you tolerate servitude, you cannot separate from it the horror of 
barbarous tyranny." 

This was more than an acute warning and true prophecy ; it was a 
judgment on the fugitive slave law that was enacted more than a 
quarter of a century after the grass had grown over the grave of the 
one who uttered it. 

Lincoln also spoke with the vision of a prophet of old when he 
wrote these lines in his poem, " The Village," a picture of New 
England life that was widely read in Maine in his day : 

"No slave is now, nor ever shall be here. 
O er slavery s plague, ye happy freemen pause, 
And learn to love your country and its laws. 


Avenging justice follows after crime, 
And sure o ertaken in the lapse of time. 
Oppressed humanity its chains will spurn, 
And meanest slaves upon their tyrants turn." 

Lincoln was but thirty-seven years old wljen he became governor 
of Maine, and died at the close of his last term, at the age of forty. 
His too pronounced artistic ability prevented him from attaining the 
prominence that should have been his by virtue of his talents, honor, 
and heart. His early death was a great loss to the State, and the 
people sincerely mourned him. 

Governor Lincoln had at this time one of the best private libraries 
in the State of Maine. Books were then scarce and valuable. The 
fact that Lincoln was not only generous in lending his treasures, but 
also sought to encourage his boyish friends in reading, is another 
proof of his high qualities. He gave Hannibal and his cousin Cyrus 
of Waterford access to his library, and together the ambitious lads 
read and studied the biographies of many a famous man. Hannibal s 
studies were conducted under difficulties that, however hard they may 
appear, operated in the end to spur him on to greater efforts. His 
duties on the farm kept him busy a large part of the day, and made 
him all the more eager to return to his books when he had the time. 
He had to rise at five o clock, milk half a dozen cows, and care for 
other cattle before going to the farm. There he was busy enough 
until sundown. After his work was done, he had to milk the cows 
again and take care of the cattle for the night. It was usually seven 
o clock before his time was his own, but he was young, vigorous, and 
ambitious. He read and studied every night he could spare as late as 
his strength would permit. 

The evenings young Hamlin spent in this way were of more practi 
cal benefit to him than all the time he had spent in school on the 
study of Latin and Greek and other subjects required for the admis 
sion to college. Practically it was a year s study of character and of 
the acquirement of information that was of solid use to him in begin 
ning his political career. In connection with this a circumstance of 
importance should be emphasized. He always spoke with great affec 
tion of his mother s influence over him in shaping his life, and one 
thing in particular should be considered in this respect in the effect 
it had on Hamlin s moral and mental development. Mrs. Hamlin 
was very devout and exceedingly conscientious in observing her 
religious duties to her children. She always insisted, in her quiet 
way, on one thing, that while her children lived at her home, they 
should twice a day memorize and recite at the family prayers passages 
from the Bible. Hannibal Hamlin strictly complied with his mother s 


wishes for more than a dozen years. He had a deep religious nature 
that expressed itself in acts rather than words ; his belief in the exist 
ence of the Supreme Being was always as strong as that in his own 
existence. In addition to the moral influence the Bible exerted 
over him, it also offered him mental discipline, and was a source of 
strength to him in temporal affairs. In after life some of his most 
effective arguments were rested on Biblical teachings, and often his 
terse, brief sentences were of Biblical style. 

The line of reading which Hamlin liked best was American biogra 
phy and history. The life of Washington made the deepest impres 
sion on him. Through Colonel Africa Hamlin his relatives knew 
more about Washington as a man than books told of him. The more 
Hannibal learned of Washington, the man whose generalship won 
the country its independence, whose statesmanship kept it in the 
right path, whose patriotism and unselfish nature prompted him to 
lay down power when he was most powerful, the more the lad 
admired him. Throughout all his life Hannibal Hamlin believed 
Washington to have been the greatest of all Americans. 

The life of Jefferson appealed to the lad with great force. He felt 
that Jefferson was a man to whom the common people could turn 
with perfect safety. He was in sympathy with them ; he could 
fathom their aspirations before any other leader, and guide them in 
the right direction. Jefferson at this time had been long enough 
removed from the scene for the country to contemplate his services 
without partisan feelings. His purchase of the Louisiana territory 
in the face of the fiercest opposition was now being thoroughly under 
stood and appreciated, in the importance of its influence on the des 
tiny of the country. It converted the United States from a small 
seaboard nation into an empire stretching from the Atlantic to the 
Pacific. Emigration to the West was now strong ; a new national 
life sprang up, and Jefferson s fame was brightened for the new gen 

Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, in his reminiscences of these days, told an 
interesting story how he and his cousin Hannibal read Las Casas 
Life of Napoleon together, and talked it over. At this time the feel 
ing against Great Britain, caused by the war of 1812, was still intense, 
and the two lads particularly enjoyed reading the great Corsican s 
life because he thrashed the Britishers, and also because Bonaparte 
and his army seemed to be bayoneted exemplars of Republican ideas. 
" Every soldier of France carries a field marshal s baton in his knap 
sack," was a genuine American sentiment, and Napoleon s recognition 
of bravery and merit as a basis for promotion, rather than birth, glo 
rified him in the eyes of ardent American boys. Hannibal had his 
boyish dream of being a soldier ; in fact, he even induced Governor 


Lincoln, the last year he was in Congress, to promise him a cadetship 
at West Point. Whether the appointment was actually made is not 
known, but it is certain that Hanibal could have been a cadet, and 
was preparing to leave home, when his mother asked him for her 
sake to give up his ambitions to enter the army. Hannibal believed 
that he ought to yield to his mother, and, did so, to her great liap- 
piness. This was the last favor Mr. Lincoln rendered this young 
friend. When he was elected governor of Maine he removed to Au 
gusta, where he died. 

Hamlin resumed his plodding life on his father s farm with unde 
cided ideas as to the profession he should follow. He still cherished 
hopes of being able to pursue a college course after his brother 
Cyrus had been provided for, and thought of earning money to pay 
his own way. Perhaps to give Hannibal an opportunity to make a 
little money, and also to let him see some more of the world before 
making up his mind about a profession, Dr. Hamlin decided to send 
his son to Boston for a few months. Hannibal found employment as 
a clerk in a small fruit store. That which made the greatest impres 
sion on him at this time was the theatre. Dr. Hamlin was fond of 
acting, and his home at Paris Hill was the theatre for the ambitious 
Thespian Club of the Hill. There were jolly times at his house. 
Elijah Hamlin was the star actor of the Hill at first, and Hannibal 
about this time succeeded to his brother s histrionic mantle. Com 
ing to Boston in 1827, he found the old Boston Theatre a place of 
great interest. Wallack, the elder, Edmund Kean, William Charles 
McCready, Edwin Forrest, William A. Conway, Junius Brutus Booth ; 
Charles Matthews, senior, and other great actors, were appearing at 
the Boston Theatre at this time. The lad was carried away with the 
scenes before him, and was seized with the desire to become an actor. 
But before making any move he decided to consult his parents. 
Dr. Hamlin was too broad a man to entertain prejudice against act 
ing as a profession, and he regarded the drama as an educator as well 
as a means of amusement ; but he knew his high-spirited son would 
in all probability lead an unhappy life on the stage, and he believed 
Hannibal would have a career in politics. All this he pointed out in 
a tactful letter. The closing sentence, separated from the rest of the 
text, would seem harsh, but it was eminently practical. The doctor 
wrote : " If you want to be a fool, and give up opportunities for a 
promising career, you can go on the stage ; but if you want to be 
sensible, and make use of your talents in a sensible calling, come 
home." Hannibal came home, but he always retained a love of 
the drama. In after life he made a practice of collecting and study 
ing the standard plays he saw, and he had some lifelong friends 
among the noblest actors of his day. One was Edwin Forrest, whom 


he probably met before he entered public life, possibly when he him 
self wanted to go on the stage. 

Coming home in the winter of 1827, Hannibal again set about to 
earn money to pay his way at college. An incident happened that 
was of practical benefit to him. An odd character named Ellis, 
who never seemed to be happy unless he was away from civilization, 
was engaged by Dr. Hamlin and others to survey a township of land 
they owned on Dead River. Ellis offered to take Hannibal on condi 
tion that he would cut wood and draw water for the cook. Hamlin 
saw an opportunity to learn surveying, and accepted Ellis s offer. A 
party of five or six was formed, and they fitted themselves out for a 
six weeks expedition. They walked on snowshoes, and slept in their 
blankets on the snow, which was seven or eight feet deep. What 
impressed young Hamlin most strongly at first in his mid-forest life 
was the unerring precision with which Ellis and his assistants found 
their way from point to point back to camp. He saw that they had 
trained their powers of observation to a high degree, and learned by 
experience that the habit of noticing little landmarks became a second 
nature and a sure guide. He developed this practice to such a degree 
that he was never known to lose his way in the many times he tramped 
through forest, or in strange cities on either side of the Atlantic. 

With the help of Ellis and his assistants Hannibal soon picked up 
enough practical knowledge about surveying to make a little money 
now and then after he returned home. He appreciated the kindness 
of his friends in teaching him how to survey, and returned it in a way 
they never forgot. The coming of Christmas found the surveyors 
still busy. The men were a little blue, thinking about the festivities 
at home, and were rather silent when they gathered in camp for the 
night meal. When they sat down around their rough board table, 
prepared to eat their customary supper of baked beans, coffee, and 
hard tack, Hamlin slipped out of the camp with the cook, and in a 
few minutes returned with an immense pan, while the cook was laden 
down with various pots and stewpans, all of which emitted appetizing 
odors. On the table was spread a feast for lords. During the few 
days preceding Christmas, young Hamlin, unbeknown to the survey 
ors, had tramped miles through the woods, shooting partridges, wild 
turkeys, and other game, and catching trout through the ice. He 
himself cooked a partridge-pie, which was the principal dish of the 
dinner. It was a red-letter night, and there was no merrier band of 
Christmas revelers in Maine that year than those who enjoyed Han 
nibal s dinner in the midst of its forests. 

This dinner lived in the recollection of those who ate it, and an 
interesting result came from it nearly thirty years afterwards, when 
Hannibal Hamlin was running for governor in the most exciting and 


momentous campaign yet fought in Maine. He spoke one night in a 
little cross-road village, where the people gathered from miles around 
to hear him on the issue of slavery. There was something familiar 
about the face of the chairman, and looking at him again, Hamlin re 
cognized his old friend Ellis, whom he had not seen since the dinner. 
Ellis had never forgotten his young friend, and had come out of his 
haunts in the wilderness to help a man whom he believed to be honest 
and disinterested. 

After the surveying trip, Hamlin found that a teacher was wanted 
in his old school at Paris Hill, and he applied for the vacancy. Teach 
ing a country school in rural Maine was not always a smooth and pleas 
ant life. In the winter and early spring time it usually happened that 
many young men who had little to do on their farms came to the 
district school to repair the deficiencies of their early education. The 
Paris Hill school in the spring of 1828 had pupils who ranged from 
children in pinafores to young men and women. The master was 
called on to teach children their letters and fit boys for college. But 
there was another requirement that some failed to meet. Among the 
lusty farmer lads who attended this school was a rather unruly set, 
that looked on the teacher in the light of an enemy and their natural 
prey. When they heard Han Hamlin was to take the school, the 
story is, they talked him over and came to this decision, that if Han 
was " stuck up " in consequence of his appointment as school-teacher 
they would " chuck him out of the window," with the important pro 
viso, if they could. Hamlin heard of the plot that was brewing, and 
knowing how some unfortunate college sophomores had been " chucked 
out of the window" on account of a little misunderstanding which could 
have been easily prevented, he took the initiative to let the boys know 
how he felt over his elevation in life. The day Hamlin entered upon 
his new duties, he began by calling the school to order. There was a 
look of mischief in the eyes of the big fellows sprawling on the back 
seats. Looking at them, Hamlin said in his sincere, quiet way : 
" Boys, out of school you will find that I will be as good a friend as 
ever, but here you will find that I will be the master." The boys ex 
changed approving glances, and passed around the word, " Han is n t 
stuck up." The new teacher was as good as his word. Out of doors 
he engaged in all the sports, and in school he lightened the hours by 
drawing on his knowledge of history and biography for the benefit and 
enjoyment of his pupils in connection with their routine work. He 
found his experience of value to him, and often advised young men to 
spend a winter or two in teaching, to learn how to impart their know 
ledge and also how to exercise power ; in fact, he enforced these ideas 
on several of his sons at different times, twenty-five to forty years 
after his own experience. 


In 1829 Hamlin was twenty years old, and had made up his mind 
to become a lawyer. He yet hoped to take a college course, but 
he determined to risk no chances. He had still to carry on his fa 
ther s farm, and as he was fitted to enter college resolved to begin 
reading law by night, so that whatever happened he might prepare 
for the future. He had saved up a little money by teaching and 
surveying, and as Cyrus was now practicing with his brother-in-law, 
Dr. Job Holmes, in Calais, it looked to Hannibal as if he might be 
able, after earning a little more money, to enter college. In the winter 
of 1829, When he was released from his farm duties, young Hamlin 
secured a school at Columbia, where he lived for several months with 
his brother Elijah, working on his Blackstone at night. But in the 
spring, while Hannibal was enjoying his brother s delightful compan 
ionship, and pursuing his studies with advantage, news came from 
Paris Hill that a terrible blow had fallen on the happy home there. 
Dr. Hamlin was dead. He died of pneumonia after a few days 
illness. His condition was not thought to be critical until a short 
time before he passed away, and the members of the family who were 
not at Paris Hill were not summoned in time to be with him when 
he died. The loss of a father who had been so devoted a parent and 
companion was a severe shock to Hannibal ; but he voluntarily aban 
doned all hopes of obtaining a college education, and returned home, 
to become the prop of his mother and sisters. 



DURING the months that followed his father s death, Hamlin found 
distraction in the exciting presidential election of 1829. This was 
the first political campaign in which Hannibal Hamlin took part, and 
it is easy to see why he entered into it with heart and soul. An 
drew Jackson was the Democratic candidate for President, and was 
the idol of his party. Hamlin saw Jackson in subsequent years, and 
often spoke of Old Hickory s wonderful personality. He was a born 
leader, picturesque-looking, very passionate, warm-hearted, and hon 
esty itself. His eccentricities of temper and mistakes of judgment 
even served to make the masses of his party understand and love him 
all the better. If Jackson was not versed in the highest arts of states 
manship, and was narrow, he was nevertheless an iron-willed patriot, 
and rode fierce gales that threatened the safety of the young country. 
He checked the secession movement, which, with a weak man at the 
head of the government, might have succeeded ; he crushed the United 
States Bank, and compelled the United States to do its own business 
and keep in the paths of Jefferson, the simplest and easiest for the 
young nation to follow. 

Jackson was the unique product of a unique period. When the 
little seaboard republic expanded into a continental empire, emigration 
to the great West followed. A new, strange, and fiercely exuberant 
civilization was developed there. New conditions were consequently 
created, and in this marvelous period of national growth, national 
faith in democracy as the cornerstone of the republic was enthusiastic. 
The spirit of democracy was rampant, as naturally befitted the crude 
state of affairs. Novel problems constantly arose, bringing with them 
unexpected dangers ; in a word, the nation was in a formative period, 
the Republic was still an experiment. The country needed a strong 
man, who could be understood by the enthusiastic and headstrong 
masses. The colleges and schools were relatively few in number ; 
the newspaper press a pygmy, and with the locomotive and steamboat 
in their infancy, and the telegraph not yet in existence, communica 
tion was slow. The difficulties of spreading information among the 
masses about the principles of self-government were a condition that 
does not exist to-day. Hence there is a philosophical consideration 


to be weighed in connection with Jackson s act in turning Federal 
ists out of office by the wholesale, and replacing them by men of 
his own party who had never held office before, and who, according 
to the historians of the day, had at first but crude ideas of the prin 
ciples of government. The absence of better means of instructing 
the masses of the people in the art of government, and informing them 
of what the government was doing, places Jackson s course in a new 
light. Necessity, the craving for intimate knowledge of governmental 
affairs among the masses, were a legitimate outcome of the times, and 
probably had as much to do with "raiding the offices," as desire to 
"get the spoils of war." Civil service reform came in due time, when 
the Marcy theory had degenerated into a source of danger and corrupt 
power ; but it was also the product of a new age, an enlightened 
period when communication was rapid through the press, the tele 
graph and mails, when the nation could learn of a governmental act 
the day it was executed and publish its reply the next. On the whole, 
it was fortunate the country had in this seething condition of affairs 
a man at the head of the government as human, honest, simple, patri 
otic, and inflexible as Andrew Jackson. 

The campaign of 1829 was hotly contested, and was very exciting. 
Belief that Congress had cheated Jackson out of the presidency in 
1825, by electing John Quincy Adams, stimulated the Democrats to 
great exertion. There was the glamour of 1812, too, about Jackson, 
and, on the other hand, President Adams, who was a candidate for 
reelection, was believed to be cold and at heart a monarchist. This 
was unjust to Adams, as the country afterwards learned. But though 
Mr. Adams deserved reelection on his merits, the conditions required 
Jackson. The new West created these conditions ; Jackson did not, 
though his recluse critics seem to believe it. The flood gates of de 
mocracy were opened, and Jackson was overwhelmingly elected. 1 

Although Hamlin was not yet old enough to vote, he spoke for 
Old Hickory, and shared in the exultation over his success. The cam 
paign had an interesting effect on him. Plodding on the farm and 
reading law at night he found rather slow work, and he looked for an 
opportunity to forge ahead. One came in an amusing manner. Two 
years before this, Asa Barton, a bookseller of Paris Hill, had estab 
lished a weekly newspaper under the title of the "Oxford Democrat." 
It was successful, but for some unknown reason Mr. Barton took 
offense at his surroundings, and one fine day the good people of Paris 
Hill woke up to find that Barton and his newspaper had disappeared. 
The night before, Barton had placed his entire establishment in an ox 
cart, and taken it over to the rival and neighboring town of Norway. 
Of course, Norway had a roar of laughter over the discomfiture of 

1 For the other view of Jackson, see his life by Professor William G. Sumner. 


Paris Hill, and this incited the Jackson Democrats of the Hill to have 
a newspaper whose policy and movements also they could control. 
Accordingly, Judge Emery, Alanson Mellen, Moses Hammond, 
Thomas Webster, Alfred Andrews, Thomas Crocker, and Rufus K. 
Goodenow, who was afterwards a member of Congress, raised the 
money necessary, and started a weekly newspaper, under the title of 
the " Jefferson ian." Joseph G. Cole, a Harvard graduate and a law 
student in Judge Emery s office, was appointed editor at a salary of 
one dollar and a half a week, which, strange as it may seem, was satis 
factory compensation, since it enabled the editor to live at the best 
boarding-house at Paris Hill. 

Hamlin knew the Emerys well, and at this time was a frequent 
visitor at their house. He was attached to Judge Emery s daughter 
Sarah, and although no engagement as yet existed between them, it was 
understood that there was likely to be one when Hannibal s circum 
stances permitted him to declare himself. Judge Emery took a strong 
interest in the young man, and encouraged him to strike out into poli 
tics. Hamlin learned about this time that the " Jeffersonian " might 
be purchased. Without saying anything to outsiders, he had a quiet 
conversation with the owners, with the result that one day in May, 
1830, he walked into the office of the "Jeffersonian," and finding there 
a young man of his own age, whose bright and frank face reflected a 
quick mind and honest character, said to him : 

"Horatio, Tom Witts and I have bought the Jeffersonian. He 
is already sick of his bargain. Will you come into partnership with 
me ? " 

This was Horatio King, who was at the beginning of his active 
career. He lived near Paris Hill, and saw a great deal of Hannibal 
Hamlin as boy and man. He was now the printer s devil, and pon 
dering a career as a newspaper editor. In an amusing reminiscence, 
King told how it took him a long time to decide in what manner to 
submit an article to the "Jeffersonian." Finally he sent it to the 
editor-in-chief, Cole, as an anonymous communication, who, to King s 
great delight, published it. Then he announced himself to Cole s 
great amazement as the author. 

King was taken by surprise at the sudden change in the ownership 
of the " Jeffersonian," but as it offered him an opportunity to promote 
his own fortunes he readily agreed. The young men did not have 
enough money to buy the paper outright ; Hamlin had only two 
hundred and fifty dollars, which was his share of his father s estate. 
The owners of the " Jeffersonian," however, accepted notes for the 
balance of the debt, and on May 30, 1830, the paper appeared under 
the management of Hamlin and King. As Hamlin did not know 
how to set type, he consented to release Witts, the foreman, from 


his agreement to buy the " Jeffersonian," on condition that he would 
do two weeks work in the office for nothing. Witts had to carry out 
his promise, and Hamlin learned enough from him to get started as 
a printer. King succeeded Witts as foreman and Cole remained the 

The office boy was Henry Carter, another lad with a future before 
him. He was distantly related to Hamlin, and ran away from his 
home in Portland to learn the newspaper business under his kins 
man. The three lads had a busy time for the next six months, and 
Hamlin, who worked as writer, printer, farmer, and law student, used 
to refer jokingly to this experience as his college education. The 
" Jeffersonian " was printed on a Ramage press and required two 
pulls for each side of the paper. Cole wrote one dignified editorial, 
a week, Hamlin and King assisted and also turned in news. To save 
time Hamlin would often set his matter up " hot from the brain," 
without reducing it first to writing. When they worked the press, 
King handled the fly and Hamlin would ink the type. He used 
to say with a smile that a little ink would not hurt his complexion. 
His associates said that he was always jolly and full of fun, except at 
* times when he seemed to be " wandering in dreams," possibly think 
ing of a career beyond that little office. King told a story to illus 
trate Hamlin s fun-loving disposition. A gaping boy applied for a 
position in the office, and when he asked how to learn the printing 
business, Hamlin told him that he must begin by eating printer s 
ink. Before any one could stop him, he scooped some of the stuff 
into his mouth. But the young partners squared things by teaching 
him how to set type. 

In six months Hamlin found that the " Jeffersonian " was not mak 
ing enough money for two proprietors, and he offered to sell out to 
King or buy him out. King decided to buy, and subsequently merged 
the "Jeffersonian" into a Portland newspaper, after which he entered 
the government postal service. Cole established a law office, and 
Hamlin and Carter read with him for a year or more. "All the lead 
ing traits in Hamlin s character," wrote Mr. Carter, "which distin 
guished him in public life were conspicuous in those days only they 
grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength by coming 
in contact with the outer world. Never despising what he could learn 
from books and schools, he learned vastly more from his struggles 
and experience in actual life. In the village lyceum he was easily the 
best debater, although he had never studied elocution in the schools. 
He did not attempt any flight of oratory or rhetoric ; he simply had 
ideas or points to present, and expressed himself in a natural, earnest, 
effective manner. He was always himself ; always Han Hamlin ; 
without any attempt at imitation or display. He was strongly demo- 


cratic in all his ideas and manner. After the death of his father, the 
care of the Hamlin estate devolved on him, which brought him in 
contact with the plain people, and served to strengthen his natural 
tendency to turn from the artificial and cling to the real." 

Other interesting glimpses of young Hamlin s personal character 
were afforded by his associate of those days. "We walked, rode, 
fished, hunted, and danced, and he always treated me as a companion, 
although four or five years older. I regarded him both as a com 
panion and a mentor. Our most common amusement was hunting, 
and in our excursions over the country we were always accompanied 
by Hamlin s little dog Carlo. The two were inseparable. At home, 
in the office, or in the woods, there was Carlo by Hamlin s side. He 
was small, short-haired, swift of foot, nice head, and bright eyes, and 
always clean. He was very affectionate, and would show it by wag 
ging his tail, barking, and looking up with his expressive eyes. Hamlin 
loved that little dog, and Carlo loved him, and it was exhilarating to 
see Carlo jump when Hamlin would take his gun. Carlo would dart 
ahead and sometimes in his zeal run out of sight. Occasionally we 
would play him a trick and switch off on another path. When he 
missed us we would hear his reproachful yells, and he would wag all 
over when he caught us again. I never saw a dog so clever in treeing 
partridges, nor one so affectionate. Years and years afterwards when 
Hamlin was collector of the port of Boston, I spent an evening with 
him, and Carlo was a prominent topic of conversation. And sixty 
years afterwards there is no picture of Han Hamlin so vivid in my 
mind as when he was walking across the green at Paris Hill, with 
Carlo by his side." 

Hamlin s magnetism was recognized at that time, and a story 
was told that illustrated his- power to soothe ruffled spirits. He 
planned a ride into the country one day with Carter and several young 
women, to spend the afternoon with the uncle of one of the women 
in the party. Hamlin forgot to inform those they intended to call on 
of their contemplated visit. They arrived at their destination about 
noon, and just as the young ladies were about to enter the house it 
occurred to Hamlin that he had made a blunder. The fact was, 
it was in the middle of the haying season, when their host was as 
busy as he could be hi his field. Moreover, it was just dinner hour, 
and no preparations had been made to receive guests. What made 
it still worse was the fact that the enforced host was a retired sea 
captain, of a curt manner, developed from long life on shipboard. 
The girls, of course, knew nothing of the situation, and were chilled 
when the old captain, stern-looking, with a cue, and in his shirtsleeves, 
came into the room with a look that plainly asked, " What s your busi 
ness ? " " It was Hamlin s excursion," said Mr. Carter, " and I stood 


back to let him settle with the social function ; and how well he did it ! 
He explained and apologized with great skill and discernment, and 
gradually the captain s face lost its austere look. Then Hamlin with 
great tact drew out some of his best sea yarns, and in the end the 
old sea-dog was completely fascinated. He finally forgot his haying, 
and invited us to dinner, and actually compelled us to spend the even 
ing with him." 

Another incident foreshadowed the coming man. " In those days," 
wrote Mr. Carter, " Hamlin exhibited the same traits of loyalty to his 
friends for which he was noted in after years. One winter I was 
engaged to teach school near Paris Hill. There was a bitter sectarian 
war between the Baptists and the Universalists, and the teacher was 
usually the one who suffered. Hamlin invited me to a dance at 
Poland one night, and an immense fall of snow prevented me from 
returning to school the next morning. An illiterate busybody, who 
opposed the agent who appointed me, seized the opportunity to make 
war. He had a petition drawn up, asking the school board to dismiss 
me on the charges that I had neglected my duties as a teacher to 
indulge in worldly and sinful pleasures, that I had used profane lan 
guage, and was inefficient. Hamlin came forward and said that as he 
had got me into the scrape he would get me out. He had read some 
law, and had also studied the trial of cases in court. He had also 
investigated the school and knew that it was a success. He finally 
understood the animus of the charges and the character of the man 
who made them. He said to me, We will have some fun out of this/ 
and then planned to vindicate me. This he did in his own way, and 
without any help from his elders. 

" The incident revived the old feud, and there was no little excite 
ment when the hearing began in the schoolhouse. My enemy made 
a long speech, saying that his children had made little or no improve 
ment in reading that he could ascertain, that I had been heard to 
swear, and was not competent. Hamlin at once put him on the stand 
and asked him to read and write on the spot. This staggered him ; 
he could do neither. Hamlin then called up my enemy s son, and 
asked him what profane words I had used. The boy replied that I 
had been heard to say that a certain man was a poor deaf old devil. 
Hamlin asked him if he had heard anything stronger than that at 
home, and silence was the reply. Hamlin next placed a minister on 
the stand, and asked him if saying a man was a deaf old devil was 
swearing. The minister said no, and that it was not taking the name 
of the Lord in vain. By this time the audience was in a roar of 
laughter, and yet Hamlin was not done. He was filled with righteous 
indignation, and made a speech that would have done him credit in 
later years, denouncing the spirit of warfare in the district as a dis- 


grace to civilization, a detriment to education, and the petition as 
persecution. The committee at once dismissed the case, and publicly 
complimented me. The boys, who were all friendly to me, started to 
snowball my enemy, and it was all Hamlin, the agent, and I could do 
to stop them. But that was like Hannibal Hamlin. He could be as 
merciful to a fallen enemy as he was merciless in felling him." 

This group of young men is of more than ordinary interest, and the 
subsequent lives of young Hamlin s companions were a source of 
pride to him. Cole became a successful lawyer, and was for many 
years a district judge in Maine. King rose in the government postal 
service to the top, and was postmaster-general in Buchanan s Cabinet 
during the latter part of his administration, when he called loyal men 
to his side. Carter returned to journalism and became editor of the 
" Portland Advertiser." He rendered valuable service when the 
Republican party was formed, and was one of the men who placed 
Hannibal Hamlin at the head of his party when he was elected 
governor. He was subsequently a member of the state Senate of 
Massachusetts, and for many years the municipal judge of Haverhill. 



AFTER Hamlin sold out his interest in the " Jeffersonian," he tried 
to devote himself to the study of law in Cole s office. But he soon 
found that he could not give all his attention to the law without 
detriment to his mother s farm and live stock, and he had to adapt 
himself to circumstances as best he could. The farm hands noticed 
that when he was called to the field he generally brought a law book 
with him, and usually found a chance to make use of it. When he 
hoed potatoes they often saw him studying out a case while standing 
at the head of a row of potato hills. Presently he would put down 
the book, and con the case over in his mind while working down to 
the end of the row and back on the next. Then he would take up 
his book, read over another page or paragraph, and fix it in his mind 
while hoeing the next row in turn. But this was slow work, and 
Hamlin saw that to get ahead he must have a year s study in an 
office where he could get some practical experience with the mechan 
ism of the law. To this end, he earned money by surveying land 
and copying legal papers for lawyers outside of his regular hours of 
work. By hard toil and careful saving, in two years time he had 
got together more than enough money to pay his expenses for a year 
in Portland, where he had decided to go. At this time the leading 
law firm in Portland was Fessenden & Deblois. Young Hamlin called 
upon them, and asked to be accepted as a student in their office. 
They- consented, and for the following year Hamlin had the oppor 
tunities he had sought. 

In other respects, Hamlin s associations with Fessenden & Deblois 
were fortunate for him. They were not only able lawyers, but they 
were also fine men. The senior partner was General Samuel Fes 
senden, one of the most interesting and picturesque men identified 
with the legal profession and political history of Maine. He had a 
magnificent personality ; his form was towering ; he had a noble face, 
kindly, expressive eyes, and a calm, confident air. He was what he 
looked, a born leader and a man of heart and principle. He was de 
scended from the pioneer Fessenden family of Massachusetts, and 
was educated at Dartmouth. He left his mark there as a scholar, 
and in after years the presidency of the college was offered to him. 


Coming to Portland, he took and maintained a high position at the 
Cumberland bar, which numbers among its leaders men of national 
reputation, including Simon Greenleaf, William Pitt Fessenden, and- 
Thomas B. Reed. General Fessenden disputed the leadership of the 
Cumberland bar with Greenleaf, until the latter attached himself to 
the Harvard Law School, but did not ca*e for public life. William 
Pitt Fessenden was his son, but he was no abler man than his remark 
able father. A difference was that one sought a political career, 
the other declined it. General Fessenden was best known in New 
England as a pioneer Abolitionist. Thomas A. Deblois, his partner, 
was a Massachusetts man. After graduating from Harvard he came 
to Portland, and for many years was associated with General Fes 
senden. He was a man of sterling qualities, of dignified presence, 
and was widely respected. 

When Hamlin entered the office of Fessenden & Deblois, in 1832, 
the legal profession still enforced stringent rules upon students, and 
observed certain ideas of professional etiquette. Students, as a rule, 
were required to light office fires, sweep floors, run errands, and do 
other acts of a rather menial capacity. Lawyers usually wore the 
old-fashioned swallow-tailed coat, the buff waistcoat, and the stock. 
Fessenden & Deblois, however, had their own ideas about their duties 
and relations to their students. They believed in encouraging young 
men and in instilling high ideas of dignity and courtesy in them. 
They personally interested themselves in their student, and treated 
him almost as if he were of their own flesh and blood ; in fact, they 
seemed to make little distinction between him and William Pitt 
Fessenden, who had just left Bowdoin to enter his father s office. 
General Fessenden was continually offering practical suggestions ; 
Mr. Deblois gave earnest advice and explanation. They were very 
thoughtful about little things. Hamlin never forgot their kindness 
to him. Many years afterwards he used to tell a story that illus 
trated the consideration of his preceptors. One day a client, under 
indictment, called at the office to have a consultation. Hamlin was 
preparing to retire to the adjoining room when General Fessenden 
stopped him, saying, " Hold on, my son. You are a member of our 
legal family ; we have no secrets from you. And I think you had 
better stay here, to see how the mechanism of the law works in such 

During this year the Abolition movement in the United States 
received great impetus from the election of a Parliament pledged to 
abolish slavery in the English colonies. Slavery became a subject 
of constant interest and discussion between General Fessenden and 
Hamlin. This noble man hated slavery and fiercely denounced it. 
He joined the New England Anti-Slavery Society when the only 


meeting place it could get in Boston was a barn loft behind the Marl- 
borough Hotel, and he was also president of the society at one time. 
Hamlin had then fixed and positive ideas about slavery. In one of 
his conversations with Fessenden, he said : 

" General, I hate slavery, and I would fight it if ever I got a chance. 
I believe in Abolition, and hope it will come, but I do not believe in 
the Abolitionists with the exception of yourself." 

In truth, the Abolitionists of this period, notwithstanding the hu 
manity of their cause, with but few exceptions were as erratic, 
unpractical, and visionary as they were later when they proposed to 
dissolve the Union to prevent slavery from being extended into free 
soil. General Fessenden was a man too broad-gauged to overlook 
the practical side of the slavery question. He believed that the part 
the Abolitionists had to play was to agitate. He was too far-sighted, 
too patriotic, to sympathize with the disunionists among the Aboli 
tionists. Fully a quarter of a century before the slaveholders war 
of secession broke out, this far-seeing man created a scene in the old 
Portland court-house by predicting, in the presence of a number of 
pro-slavery men, that the slave power would bring on a war that would 
end in its own destruction. Fessenden liked Hamlin, it would ap 
pear, all the better for his frankness, and formed a favorable opinion 
of his ideas about slavery. In subsequent years, as will be seen later, 
he came to Hamlin s help when the slave power was trying to crush 
him. This was an outcome of their early associations. Mr. Deblois 
also proved himself a stanch friend in emergencies, to be related 
in other chapters. Another interesting friendship young Hamlin 
formed at this time was with Neal Dow, who was then entering his 
picturesque career. 

The last thing General Fessenden did for Hamlin, with the appro 
bation of Mr. Deblois, shows the nature of the two men. As Hamlin 
was about to leave Portland, he tendered his preceptors the usual 
fee exacted from law students. It amounted to several hundred dol 
lars. General Fessenden handed the money back, saying, " I think 
you can make better use of the money than we can, my boy. Then 
again, if I know you right, and I think I do, you yourself will encour 
age deserving young men when you will be able to." This act of 
generosity was never forgotten. 

This was an unexpected lift for Hamlin, and enabled him to strike 
out for himself at once. On returning to Paris Hill, in the spring 
of 1833, he was admitted to the bar, and complimented by the court 
on his examination. The same day on which he was admitted to the 
practice of his profession, he won his first case, with a pleasing result. 
The case was this. Just before Hamlin went to Portland, a man 
named Houghton came into Mr. Cole s office to engage him to 


try a case before the local justice. Cole was away, and Houghton 
insisted that Hamlin should take the case. A valuable cow of his, 
Houghton explained, had been kicked to death by a horse belonging 
to a neighbor, and he wanted damages. Hamlin argued the case 
and won, but an appeal was taken, and it came up for hearing before 
the court, just after Hamlin had passed his. examination. Houghton 
asked Hamlin to appear for him, but when the young lawyer found 
that he was to be pitted against Judge Emery, for certain reasons he 
felt like declining. But Houghton urged him to retain the case, and, 
with some misgivings, he consented. Once started, he was on his 
mettle, and made an argument that not only won the case, but also 
drew praise from the court and Judge Emery. The pleasantest 
result of the incident was Judge Emery s graceful and good-natured 
prediction of success for his opponent, a young man, he said, who 
was fortunate enough to begin his active career by winning his first 
case and a wife on the same day. This was the way the engagement 
between young Hamlin and Miss Emery was formally announced. 
Houghton, by the way, became a great admirer of Mr. Hamlin, and 
named a son after him, Hannibal Hamlin Houghton. 

After their marriage, which took place on December 10, 1833, the 
young lawyer and his wife went to the town of Lincoln, in Penobscot 
County, on the advice of General Samuel F. Hersey, a native of 
Oxford County, one of the leading lumbermen of Maine and one o 
Mr. Hamlin s lifelong friends. Hamlin opened an office and trans 
acted enough business to say that he had practiced his profession in 
Lincoln, when he heard that there was a better opening for him in 
the town of Hampden. Charles Stetson, who had begun his career 
in Hampden, and who was afterwards one of the leading capitalists 
of Maine and a member of Congress, had acquired interests that 
demanded his removal to Bangor. Hamlin was the first lawyer to 
appear on the scene as Stetson s successor, and quickly ascertained 
that Hampden offered him an excellent field. Hampden at that time 
was a thriving country town of several thousand inhabitants, with 
large commercial interests. It is five miles below Bangor, on the 
banks of the Penobscot River, one of the finest streams of water in 
Maine. It is also one of the oldest towns in the State, and is histor 
ical as the scene of the battle of Hampden, where a brave but ineffec 
tual stand by a small group of untrained militia was made against 
British regulars in the war of 1812, who came up the Penobscot, 
sacking the towns on their way as far as Bangor. Hampden was a 
shipbuilding and farming centre when Hamlin settled there, and he 
found plenty of business at the outset. He took possession of a little 
box-like office on the principal street, hung out his sign and went to 


There were many hospitable people in Hampden, and they made the 
new squire, as they called him, feel at home. When Mr. and Mrs. 
Hamlin came to this place, they first boarded at the house of Asa 
Matthews, master of the village academy, and a rugged old-fashioned 
school-teacher. He was a graduate of Waterville College, and well 
informed. An account he gave of Mr. Hamlin is of interest. " Han 
nibal Hamlin s personality," said he, "at once drew attention to him 
when he was twenty-four, and settled in Hampden. The first time 
he came into my house and stood looking at me, I knew he was an 
uncommon kind of a man. He stood six feet, straight as an arrow. 
There was about him the natural air, simplicity, and nobility of an 
Indian sachem. There was a great power, too, in the steadfast look 
of his big black eyes. I thought he was one of the finest specimens 
of physical manhood I ever saw. There was iron in him, but it was 
tempered with a big heart. He was cordial, sympathetic, and mag 
netic. He was always a perfectly natural man. His career strength 
ened his rugged character, and developed his great mind, but his 
success did not affect his nature. When his old friends of Hampden 
called on him at Washington, when he was the war Vice-President, 
he was as simple and natural as when he came into my house for the 
first time, an unknown man, little dreaming of the honorable career 
before him." 

At the outset of his life in Hampden, Mr. Hamlin told his clients 
that he had several rules and principles that he should always observe. 
One related to money, and it became known in this way. In this 
period there were few banks or money collecting agencies in the 
country towns of Maine, and this line of business was handled chiefly 
by the lawyers. Mr. Hamlin was soon called on to make writs ; in 
one year he made over three hundred. Thus he handled a good deal 
of money belonging to his clients, and it often happened that they did 
not call for it until some time after it had been collected. Mr. Ham 
lin, therefore, had at times considerable sums of money in his posses 
sion, and on one occasion he told a friend what disposition he made 
of such money and his reasons. He said : 

"When I collect money for a client, I inclose it in an addressed 
package, and lock the package up in my trunk until it is called for. 
I will not touch or use that money for my purposes under any cir 
cumstances, unless, of course, the owner should authorize it. The 
money belongs to the owner. I have no more right to use it, even 
if I could replace it in five minutes, than I would have to take money 
that he might happen to have in his pocketbook. A man should 
practice honesty in his heart and thoughts as much as in his deeds." 

He not only followed this rule in all his business dealings through 
out his life, but also endeavored to enforce it on others as the 


correct principle to be observed in matters involving trust and confi 
dence. It was one of the first rules or maxims he enjoined on his 
law students and on all of his four sons, who lived to follow his pro 

Another thing the people of Hampden learned about the new squire, 
before he had been among them long, was fchat he would frankly dis 
courage litigation, even if he was a pecuniary loser by so doing, when 
he honestly thought that a case could be settled out of court by a 
little common-sense advice on his part. Within a year after he had 
settled in Hampden, Mr. Hamlin was appointed town agent, and 
intrusted with all its public business. His own business rapidly 
increased, and in several years he laid plans to build himself a home. 
He and his wife now had two sons, George and Charles, and looked 
forward with pleasure to the time when they should own their house. 
The only set-back Mr. Hamlin received in the beginning of his active 
life occurred about this time. He went on the bond of a deputy 
sheriff named Grant for the sum of four thousand dollars. When he 
was signing his name, he said in a joking way : " My friend, if you 
should go wrong, it might cost me my home I am building." Unfor 
tunately this jest came true. Grant became a defaulter for a large 
sum of money, and his creditors looked to his bondsmen. Mr. Ham 
lin acted promptly. He called a meeting of some of Grant s creditors 
in his office, and said to them : * 

" My friends, I have lived among you only a few years, but I think 
you know that I keep my word. I am poor, young, and struggling 
for an honest support for myself. This struggle will continue right 
among you, my neighbors. I am unable now to meet this just debt ; 
but if you will give me time, and God will give me strength, I will 
pay off every dollar I owe you, even if it takes me a lifetime to do it." 
As a matter of fact, it took him many years to settle this debt, for 
he had only his salary to live on while in public life, but he kept his 
promise to the last cent. " But," Mr. Hamlin added, in telling the 
story, "heavens! how long it kept my nose on the grindstone. Never 
willingly get into debt." 

There was a great deal of social life in Hampden, for a village of 
its size, and although Mr. Hamlin worked hard he also believed in 
enjoying life himself. Out-of-door life was his passion. When he 
came to Hampden he had hardly been in the town a day before 
he was hunting around the country for its trout streams. Many an 
afternoon, when he could get away from his work, he would go off 
fishing for a couple of hours. At this time most of the States had 
compulsory militia laws, and there was, therefore, more interest in 

1 He related the story to S. F. Barr, representative to Congress from Pennsyl 
vania in 1881-85. 


military affairs in Maine then than now. In Hampden there were 
two companies, and Mr. Hamlin joined one, an independent organi 
zation called the Hampden Rifles. Incidentally, it may be said that 
this was the beginning of his political career. The company was 
composed of active, jovial young men, and when they found out the 
good-fellowship of their new companion they elected him captain of 
the company, and thereafter stuck to him throughout many a political 
fight. They had good times " training" in those days. A story is 
told of Captain Hamlin s physical agility. He and his men had 
attended a parade at Bangor, and returning to Hampden the men 
began to " skylark." When they were resting near a log fence, which 
reached up to an average man s chest, some one in the company 
shouted: "Hamlin, I ll stump you to jump over that fence without 
touching your hands." Dropping his sword, Hamlin was over the 
fence in a standing jump, without touching his hands, before another 
word was said. The company watched, and other men tried the same 
feat, but no one else could do it, and the fence was jocosely known as 
"Hamlin s stump." 

Hamlin quickly made a reputation in Hampden as a speaker. 1 He 
had a simple, vigorous way of talking that he usually adopted, but he 
could be witty and s-arcastic when the occasion demanded. He used 
to try his cases before the local justice of the peace, who was a more 
important functionary than now, and after a while the news that 
Squire Hamlin was going to argue a case always brought a crowd of 
farmers into the stuffy room to hear him. He also spoke frequently 
at the village lyceum, and on one occasion learned that he was becom 
ing famous. A schoolmaster who heard him was strongly impressed. 
He met the Rev. George W. Field, then a young divinity student, 
and said to him: "They have a rising speaker in Hampden. His 
name is Hannibal Hamlin. He speaks so well that I am sure he will 
be elected to the legislature some day." 

Hamlin s business rapidly developed, and he was often required to 
argue cases in Bangor. A story is told of one of the first arguments 
he made there, in a case that attracted considerable attention at the 
time on account of the prominence of one of the parties to the suit. 
He was a Federalist who lived in Hampden, and had undertaken to 
snub Hamlin because he was a Democrat, and depreciated his ability. 
The Federalist had a quarrel with his neighbor over the boundary line 
between their farms, and ultimately claimed that he was entitled to a 
slice of his neighbor s land. He retained a lawyer of established repu 
tation to push his claim, while the defendant engaged Hamlin, who, 
after taking certain quiet steps, satisfied himself that the Federalist 

*> His first appearance as a public speaker was made in Hampden, on the Fourth 
of July, 1836. 


had no right whatever to the land he was trying to get. The case 
was tried in Bangor. The old court-house was crowded. The Fed 
eralist s claim seemed to be established by positive testimony ; but 
Hamlin threw a veritable bombshell into his camp by demonstrating, 
through an assistant he put on the stand, that he himself, a practical 
surveyor, had surveyed the land in dispute.; that he had worked from 
the ancient landmark acknowledged by the Federalist, across the land, 
following the disputed line to the Penobscot River ; that at the end 
of the line he had found on the ledge the original surveyor s mark, 
which proved beyond a doubt that the line was correct as it stood, 
and that the Federalist did not have a shadow of a claim to an inch 
of his neighbor s land. Then Hamlin turned on the exposed claimant, 
and arraigned him with great power and pitiless scorn as " a man 
who coveted his neighbor s lands." The Federalist left the court 
house defeated and chagrined. In his hour of repentance he resolved 
to conciliate the fiery young Democrat upon whom he had hitherto 
affected to look down. When Hamlin returned home, he found at 
his house a number of choice young fruit-trees the Federalist had 
sent him as an olive branch of peace. Friendly relations afterward 
followed between the men. 

Another story was told of Hamlin s shrewdness in dealing with a 
penurious client. The incident also illustrates his love of fun. One of 
the richest men of Penobscot County lived near Hampden. He was 
very parsimonious; in fact, his neighbors said he was "meaner than 
a skinflint." He sold some land one day, and being in Hampden 
called on Mr. Hamlin to get him to draw up the deed. He first 
inquired how much this transaction would cost him. Knowing the 
peculiarity of the old man, Mr. Hamlin thought he would see how far 
his meanness would carry him, and so hue replied that the law allowed 
him seventy-five cents. Then he added : 

" Do you think that s too much ? " 

" Yes, yes, that s altogether too much," replied the old man, shak 
ing his head, and contracting his thin lips. 

"Well," continued Mr. Hamlin suavely, "do you think that two 
shillings (fifty cents) would be too much ? " 

"Yes," said the client, "that s too much." 

" How about one shilling?" (twenty-five cents), Mr. Hamlin asked, 
with his blandest smile. 

" Y-e-s," the old miser cautiously admitted, " one shillin ain t too 

Mr. Hamlin made out the deed, and when he received the shilling, 
he said in an apparently cordial, off-hand way : 

" Now seeing that it s you, I 11 give you the deed for a shilling, 
and give you a treat besides. Come over to the tavern." 


Mr. Hamlin ordered two glasses of the old man s favorite beverage, 
and paid for them with the shilling. As the client smacked his lips, 
his face lighted up with enthusiasm, and he broke out : 

" Squire, you air the most generoust man I ever knew. I m going 
to give you my business, I 11 be darned if I won t." 

Now, this was not what Mr. Hamlin had been looking for, but it is 
an amusing fact that the old fellow became a valuable client, and after 
ward promptly paid Mr. Hamlin s charges without grumbling. 

Another story was told at the expense of the Supreme Court of 
Maine, which added to the reputation of the young lawyer. The in 
cident happened when Mr. Hamlin was a member of the town school 
committee. He had two colleagues, and in his absence from Hamp- 
den at one time they engaged a teacher named Jackson. Subse 
quently they became dissatisfied with Jackson, and dismissed him. 
He claimed that he had been engaged for a whole term, and sued the 
town for his salary for that period. The case was tried in the District 
Court, and went against Jackson, but he appealed for a new trial, 
claiming that it was not competent for two members of the committee 
to discharge him. Chief Justice Shepley of the Supreme Court, a 
man who was rarely caught tripping, upheld Jackson s contention, 
and ordered a new trial. When the case was tried the second time, 
Mr. Hamlin made the argument for the town. This is the way he 
made it : 

"Your honor," said he, addressing the court, "it is contended, is it 
not, that it was not competent for two members of the school com 
mittee to dismiss Mr. Jackson ? " 

Yes, sir," replied the justice with great dignity. "The law court 
has so decided." 

"Very well, your honor," Mr. Hamlin continued, "if it was not 
competent for two members of the committee to discharge Mr. Jack 
son, will you tell me if it was competent for the same two to employ 
him ? " At the same time he exhibited Jackson s certificate, bearing 
the names of only two members of the committee. 

Failure to perform military duties according to the law then was 
punishable by fines, and Mr. Hamlin s prominence in his company 
naturally brought him many cases to defend or prosecute. Even 
tually he was called all over the county of Penobscot to act in cases 
of this kind. One story is still told in a town near Bangor of his 
shrewdness in defending a suit against members of a company. He 
suspected that a family arrangement existed between four brothers to 
make what they could out of the compulsory military law. One bro 
ther was a justice of the peace, before whom the cases were tried 
against men charged with evading service. The writs were served by 
the second brother, who was a constable. The evidence against 


alleged delinquents was furnished by a third brother, who was clerk of 
the military company. The cases were prosecuted by the fourth bro 
ther, who was a lawyer. The first time Mr. Hamlin was called into 
the case he saw at a glance that the rolls were defective, because they 
had not been properly made up and certified to by the officers of the 
company as required by law. This was a jiatal flaw, and the case was 
thrown out of court. Three months later, to his surprise, Mr. Ham 
lin was again summoned to defend the same clients against the same 
charge. Suspecting some trick, Mr. Hamlin asked to see the com 
pany rolls. He looked at the records very carefully for a moment, 
and then amazed the court and the spectators in the little room by 
suddenly stuffing the rolls in his pocket, buttoning up his coat, and 
planting his back against the court-room door. Before the startled 
justice could gather his wits, Mr. Hamlin was in command of the 
situation. Pointing his finger at the clerk of the company, he said : 

" I know you to be an honest man. Now, you shall tell me the 
truth, and I will not leave this room until you do. Have not these 
rolls been doctored since I was here on this case in September ? At 
that time there were defects in the rolls ; I remember that fact 
because the case was thrown out of court for that reason. Yet, the 
same charges against my clients are renewed, and the same rolls are 
now produced again, but dated back. Who has supplied the certifi 
cates that were missing in September ? Answer me that question ?" 

Completely taken by surprise, the clerk stammered : " Well, Mr. 
Hamlin, er, the fact is, I er I swore to the rolls which my brother 
(the lawyer) handed to me the other day." 

This admission caused consternation among the rest of the family ; 
the lawyer raved, but Mr. Hamlin continued : 

" Your brother gave you the rolls, did he ? Then you signed the 
new certificates at his suggestion, did you not ? " 

A reluctant "yes " came from the alarmed clerk. At this admis 
sion Mr. Hamlin took up his hat, and opened the door, firing this part 
ing shot : 

" This case also," said he, " is thrown out of court, and to prevent it 
from being resurrected I shall carry the rolls home where you cannot 
get them." 

He did so, and the militia of this town was not troubled again by 
these men. 

Hampden s maritime interests were comparatively large at this 
time, and Mr. Hamlin was eventually drawn into admiralty law. 
When he had built up a large practice a suggestive incident occurred. 
He was called to Boston to take charge of an admiralty case, and 
there made the acquaintance of Sidney Bartlett, who was about his 
own age, and was already evincing those solid qualities of mind which 


placed him at the head of the Boston bar for many years. Mr. Ham- 
lin retained Mr. Bartlett as associate counsel, and subsequently Mr. 
Bartlett engaged Mr. Hamlin to take charge of business for him in 
Maine. In the course of a few years the two young lawyers devel 
oped a profitable line of business. But it was suddenly terminated by 
Mr. Hamlin s election to Congress in 1843. Mr. Bartlett, it would 
seem, had formed a favorable opinion of Mr. Hamlin s ability as a 
lawyer and a liking for him as a man. When Mr. Hamlin started for 
Washington, to take his seat in the House, he stopped at Boston, and 
called on Mr. Bartlett. Now, Mr. Bartlett was perfectly devoted to 
the law, and had a contempt for politics. He was rather reserved 
and precise in his dealings with men as a rule, but when he saw his 
former associate, he warmed up, and to Mr. Hamlin s quiet amuse 
ment, read him a vigorous lecture on entering politics. He seemed 
to feel as if it were a personal grievance. In a tone of remonstrance 
Bartlett began : 

" Hamlin, why do you go into politics ? There s nothing in politi 
cal life, I tell you. You were doing well, and you should not have 
got yourself elected to Congress. You may stay in politics and spoil 
the making of a fine lawyer ! Hamlin, you will have a fine career as 
a lawyer if you remain in your profession ; I know you will. Give up 
politics. Stick to the larr, my friend, stick to the larr. 

In the following years Mr. Hamlin rarely made a visit to Boston 
without calling on Mr. Bartlett for a few moments. Once when he 
complimented the latter on his success at the bar, Bartlett re 
plied : 

" Well, Senator, are you not sorry now you did not take my advice 
and remain a lawyer ? " 

" No," replied Mr. Hamlin, with a laugh, "but I will admit that 
when I entered politics I spoiled the making of a good farmer." 

Mr. Hamlin s early entrance into political life and its engrossing 
duties soon withdrew him from his profession, and when he had been 
fairly settled in the Senate he had to relinquish all thought of resum 
ing the practice of law. He did not, therefore, develop his legal pos 
sibilities, and in after life there naturally was no little speculation as 
to the rank he would have attained at the bar. Sidney Bartlett s 
opinion is suggestive. It was also recalled by a witty practitioner in 
considering this, that Mr. Hamlin s success in winning cases during 
his connection with the bar, which was regarded as remarkable, enti 
tled him to a share in the story told of Choate by a farmer jury 
man : " He seemed to have the luck to be always on the right side." 
But this brief phase is best summed up in the words of John A. 
Peters, the distinguished Chief Justice of Maine, who knew him as a 
lawyer, congressman, and friend : 


" There can be no doubt that Mr. Hamlin would have attained high 
position as a lawyer, had not a strong natural taste for public life 
allured him from the practice of his profession. He naturally pos 
sessed a happy combination of the qualities that command success at 
the bar, quickness and clearness of perception, conciseness of thought 
and expression, discrimination, an intuitive* insight into the motives 
of others, industry and earnestness, and a personal magnetism which 
made him acceptable to all classes of men. And at the bottom, on 
which this superstructure of character could most firmly rest, was a 
strong, natural love of justice, a high order of integrity, and rare com 
mon sense. We may well remember with pride that Hannibal Ham 
lin was a member of our bar." l 

1 Eulogy, Penobscot Bar Association, October 25, 1891. See other remarks by 
Albert W. Paine, S. F. Humphrey, Daniel F. Davis, and Eugene Hale. 



THE state and county musters were the great events of the year 
in Maine and other States, at this period. There was a good deal of 
rivalry between the various crack companies of Maine, and the ap 
proach of muster day stirred up more excitement among the men and 
boys than the coming of a circus to country towns does nowadays. 
The day before the muster towns were alive with moving troops on 
their way to the grounds. On the great day itself the muster place 
in the morning was a scene of arriving troops and soldiers marching 
and drilling. In the afternoon came the sham fight, with enough 
noise and dust for a real battle. Then the hungry soldiers charged on 
scores of booths that fringed the field, " stocked with enough food to 
feed an army, and enough liquids to float a navy," as the saying was. 
The absence of women was significant. Jamaica rum and punch 
were circulated in great quantities. The scene became hilarious. 
Barn doors were thrown down on the ground. Fiddlers scraped for 
men to dance. The double shuffle was a favorite step, the fore and 
aft a popular dance. Men jigged each other and the fiddlers down, 
and when the sun was sinking it lighted the way home for an hila 
rious crowd, marching and singing behind the heroes of the day. 

The muster attracted the politicians, and they gathered to discuss 
candidates, and lay their wires. Two years after Hamlin came to 
Hampden, the rifle company, which he captained at the county mus 
ter, in 1835, proposed him as the Democratic candidate for the legis 
lature, to represent Hampden and the associated towns of Newburgh, 
Orrington, and others. He was duly nominated at the regular caucus, 
and then entered upon his first campaign. This is of historical rather 
than personal interest, since it relates to the rise and formation of 
political parties in Maine. From 1820 to 1829 party lines in Maine 
were not strictly drawn in the state elections. In 1829 the ascend 
ency of the Jackson Democracy was felt, and Jackson s followers 
there made a campaign on state issues. They were designated as 
the Democratic-Republican party, and their opponents as National 
Republicans. The Democrats were beaten by a small majority; but 
the next year they carried the State, and, with the exception of an 
occasional defeat, controlled its government until 1856. In 1833, the 


year in which Mr. Hamlin settled in Hampden and began to take 
an active interest in politics, the opponents of the Democratic-Repub 
lican party formally took the name of Whigs, and the Jackson party 
began to be known simply as Democrats. 

At this time the Democratic party was most powerful in Maine. 
The year Mr. Hamlin was elected to the legislature, Robert P. Dim- 
lap, the Democratic candidate for governor, received over 45,000 votes 
to only 18,000 for William King, the Whig candidate, the first gov 
ernor of Maine, and a man of great personal popularity and ability. 
Party principle prevailed, and it is easy to see why the Democratic 
party was then supreme. First, it was truly the party of the people. 
This was because it was loyal to the principles of Jefferson and Jack 
son, and these were the safest for the young nation to follow in its 
formative period. They embodied a strict construction of the Con 
stitution, and hence guaranteed the largest latitude of liberty to the 
individual citizen that was compatible with the welfare of society, 
while demanding thorough enforcement of the laws and maintenance 
of the government. The Democrats of this period looked on the Con 
stitution as the Bible of their faith, because it gave the American peo 
ple the best form of popular government yet given to mankind, and 
secured for the individual his personal liberty. The Democrats, there 
fore, opposed paternal legislation and centralization ; they regarded 
the Whigs as the lineal descendants of the Federalists, whom they 
believed to have been monarchists at heart. They also believed in a 
low tariff for revenue only. Another thing to be credited to the party 
of Jefferson and Jackson was that it was the progressive and aggres 
sive party of its day, the Whigs being the conservative element. 
While it did not have as many intellectual leaders as the Whigs did, 
it generally took the lead in cutting out the issues of the day. In 
several respects it embodied the life of the growing country in a strik 
ing manner. It was imbued with belief in the manifest destiny of the 
nation. To the Democratic party the country owes the acquisition 
of the Louisiana territory, under Jefferson, the opening up of the 
West under Jackson, the annexation of Texas, and the saving of 
Oregon from the British government. At this time it had the young 
blood of the day, and was the dominant party of the country. 

Hamlin supported the principles of Jefferson and Jackson from con 
viction, and was in full accord with his party in its dominant ideas, 
although he believed in specific duties in connection with a tariff for 
revenue. New England was then a commercial centre, and many of 
her public men grew with her interests, and evoluted naturally into 
protectionists when New England developed her great manufacturing 
possibilities. Hamlin was also attracted to the Democratic party 
partly on account of his democratic nature and aggressive disposition. 


He thoroughly believed in the American people, and he was a born 
fighter for their rights. He enjoyed a contest, and entered on this 
campaign with zest. He was easily elected, and took his seat in the 
House of Representatives in the following winter. 

The key to Hannibal Hamlin s political success is to be found in 
his legislative training and experience. He remained in the Maine 
legislature five successive years, and there he not only familiarized 
himself with legislation and parliamentary procedure, but also built 
up lifelong friendships that were as a rock for him to stand on in his 
long and arduous fight against the slave power, which is the most 
important service he rendered to his country and State. But at 
this time slavery was not an issue. The parties were divided on 
strictly party issues, and Mr. Hamlin s services in the legislature are 
interesting chiefly in showing his capacity for work and his grasp of 
public questions in the first stages of his political career. In point of 
ability, character, and individual success the legislature of 1835 was 
not equaled by any other body that met at Augusta in Mr. Hamlin s 
lifetime. The Democrats were in control. The Speaker was Jona 
than Cilley, a promising man, classmate of Longfellow and Hawthorne 
at Bowdoin, who was killed in a duel while a member of Congress. 
Another leading member of the House was John Holmes, of Alfred, 
who had been a member of the United States Senate. Henry W. 
Paine, afterwards one of the leaders of the Boston bar, was then a 
Whig representative of Hallowell. Another lawyer who stood well 
up in his profession was Samuel Wells, a Democrat, who became 
governor and a member of the Supreme Court of Maine. The leader 
of the Whigs in the House was Elisha H. Allen, of Bangor, a gradu 
ate of W 7 illiams College, who afterwards was a member of Con 
gress, chief justice of the Hawaiian government, and finally its minis 
ter to this country. Rufus Mclntire, of Parsonsfield, Stephen C 
Foster, of Pembroke, and Virgil D. Parris, then of Buckfield, were 
also subsequently members of Congress. Dr. Ezekiel Holmes, of 
Winthrop, achieved a national reputation as a naturalist and a writer 
on agricultural and educational subjects. There were also other men 
in the House who attained some prominence in the legislature, the 
governor s council, or the business affairs of the State. Among them 
was Moses Emery, of Saco, a sound lawyer and a clear observer of 
public affairs ; Stephen P. Brown, a pioneer woolen manufacturer of 
Dover ; William Conner, of Fairfield ; Eliakim Scammon, of Pittston ; 
William D. Sewall, of Bath ; and Wales Hubbard, of Wiscasset. In 
the Senate, over which Josiah Pierce, of Gorham, presided, Luther 
Severance and Samuel P. Benson were future congressmen. Tobias 
Purrington was a powerful leader in the movement to abolish capital 
punishment. One who was long a picturesque figure in the politics 
of Maine was John C. Talbot, of East Machias. 


There was a strong rivalry for the leadership on the floor of the 
House, and as this was a time of intense partisanship, many a rough 
and tumble fight took place in debate with exchanges of personalities. 
The Whigs prided themselves on the superior intellectual attainments 
of their leaders ; the Democrats prided themselves on the democracy 
of theirs. Hamlin s associates of these d#ys said that he at once 
stepped to the front, and became the recognized leader of his party 
on the floor of the House. Naturally his marked individuality, 
swarthy face, and vigorous way of speaking attracted attention to 
him. Finally, his ardent championship of Democracy involved him 
in several pitched battles. One story has been preserved that shows 
the personal nature of the times. Some of the old leaders were a 
little jealous of the newcomer s sudden ascendency, and of these 
John Holmes was one. He had been in the United States Senate 
for a dozen years, and was at one time famous as a speaker of great 
powers of sarcasm and humor, though of a rude quality. In the 
Senate John Tyler once sneeringly asked Holmes what had become 
of the famous political firm John Randolph had discovered : James 
Madison, Felix Grundy, John Holmes, and the Devil. Holmes with 
ered Tyler by retorting : " The first is dead, the second is in retirement, 
the third now addresses the Senate, and the fourth has gone over to 
the Nullifiers, and is electioneering among the gentleman s constit 
uents." Holmes was a free lance in this House, and tried to domi 
neer over it. Hamlin disputed the leadership with him, and Holmes 
attempted to crush his young opponent by coarsely ridiculing his 
swarthy countenance. This was an unfortunate move for Holmes. 
Instantly Hamlin jumped to his feet, and pointing his finger at Holmes 
he retorted : " If the gentleman chooses to find fault with me on 
account of my complexion, what has he to say about himself ? I take 
my complexion from nature ; he gets his from the brandy bottle. 
Which is more honorable ? " This fierce thrust at Holmes s unfortu 
nate failing brought out a shout from the House. The fact was, the 
members of the House were glad to see so brave a young David fell 
the Goliath of the House at one blow. There were cries of " Go on ! " 
Pointing his finger at Holmes, Hamlin continued : " I will also tell 
the member from Alfred that he is more conspicuous for trying to 
ride rough shod over young men than for trying to encourage them. 
He never extends a hand to them as they begin to toil up the rugged 
path of life ; he has not even a kind word for them. But as long as 
they are true to themselves and to nature, and as long as the member 
of Alfred sticks to the brandy bottle, they need not fear him." The 
House cheered again, and Holmes, realizing that he had fairly brought 
flown this fierce denunciation on his head, took the floor, retracted words, and made a manly apology. Then there was peace. 


" The young Carthaginian routed the old Roman," was one humor 
ous comment on the incident, and then Hamlin was known and called 
the Carthaginian of Maine, a name that stuck to him throughout life. 

But the encounter with John Holmes was one of the few excep 
tions to the general attitude Mr. Hamlin maintained towards his 
political opponents and party associates. Elisha H. Allen, the leader 
of the Whigs, became one of Mr. Hamlin s best personal friends 
through their intercourse in the legislature, and often in after years 
attributed much of Mr. Hamlin s success to courtesy, kindness, tact, 
and unwillingness to allow the incidents of party strife to interfere 
with his personal relations. Mr. Allen himself was a high-bred man, 
of social and scholarly inclinations. He had a polished address and a 
bright way of talking that made him a. favorite speaker and visitor in 
political and social circles in Maine and at Washington, where he lived 
many years as the dean of the diplomatic corps at the national Capi 
tol. One incident Mr. Allen related will illustrate his ideas of Mr. 
Hamlin s sense of courtesy and personal obligations to his friends and 
associates. At the request of a Portland editor Mr. Hamlin wrote 
some sketches of his fellow-members of the House. Feeling some 
delicacy about writing up Mr. Allen, who was his political rival on the 
floor of the House, Mr. Hamlin asked another member to do it, sup 
posing that he had the right ideas of the courtesy to which Mr. Allen 
was justly entitled. The day the article appeared Mr. Hamlin did 
not see it until after he entered the House. To his utter amaze 
ment Mr. Allen cut him with a freezing look, and refused to return 
his greeting. 

"Why, Allen," exclaimed Mr. Hamlin, "what is the matter? 
Why do you treat me like this ? I demand to know the reason ; it is 
my right to know it." 

The newspaper that contained the sketch of Mr. Allen, written at 
Mr. Hamlin s request, was silently handed to him, and to his great 
chagrin and displeasure he found over the nom de plume he had used 
in writing, a virulent and utterly unpardonable attack on Mr. Allen as 
the leader of the Whigs. 

" Good heavens, Allen ! " Mr. Hamlin ejaculated, " I did not write 
this awful thing; you did not believe that I did, did you ? " 

"Knowing you, Hamlin," Allen replied with some emotion, "I 
could not believe you capable of such a thing ; but the nom de plume 
misled me. Your word, however, is sufficient, and here is my hand. 
I am glad, very glad, that you acted so promptly, and prevented any 
further misunderstanding where another man might have allowed my 
pardonable error to have gone unexplained, owing to my natural 

A hearty handshake followed. Then Mr. Hamlin insisted on ex- 


plaining how the article happened to be written, taking upon himself 
the moral responsibility for it. In the mean time Whigs and Demo 
crats in the House were reading and discussing the matter, with the 
result that the Whigs were incensed, while some of the bitter parti 
sans among the Democrats were inclined to chuckle over the unmerci 
ful lashing Mr. Allen had received. Mr. FJamlin at once went among 
the members of the House, and, without naming the author of the 
article, and accepting the blame attached, strongly condemned it as 
unmanly and totally unjustified. Both Whigs and Democrats were 
greatly pleased with Mr. Hamlin s action, and the affair ended there. 

At the beginning of the session Speaker Cilley appointed Mr. Ham- 
lin to several of the most important committees of the House. They 
dealt with questions that were looming up like dark clouds on the 
political horizon, and, therefore, absorbed a great deal of the legis 
lature s attention. Several incidents occurred that revealed Mr. 
Hamlin s character while meeting new experiences. His colleagues 
of this day said that he soon earned the reputation of a worker, and 
never refused to face any problem. One question that was now con 
stantly coming up in the legislatures, and frightening the time-serving 
politicians of that body, was slavery. The situation was interesting. 
There was a growing friction between the Abolitionists and the slave 
holders that threatened to produce serious trouble. A favorite method 
the Abolitionists had of agitating was to flood Congress and Northern 
legislatures with petitions for the abolition of the peculiar institution. 
The slave party retaliated by passing the infamous gag-law in Con 
gress, which prohibited the reception of anti-slavery petitions by that 
body, and also by sending remonstrances to Northern legislatures 
against abolition agitation. While the majority of people in Maine 
abhorred slavery, they nevertheless deplored the methods of the Aboli 
tionists as likely to cause trouble without affording any remedy for 
the evil. There was also a small, but increasing faction in the Demo 
cratic party of Maine, composed chiefly of Federal office-holders, who 
frowned on any attack on slavery ; in fact, in their eyes criticism of 
slavery was criticism of the Constitution itself. For did not the Con 
stitution guarantee protection to the institution ? Under the circum 
stances, the Abolitionists had but little encouragement in Maine, and 
found a rather chilly atmosphere at Augusta. 

Mr. Hamlin was a member of the committee that received the peti 
tions and remonstrances relating to slavery. There were some pretty 
stiff pro-slavery men in the House, and they insisted that the aboli 
tion memorials should be rejected, while time-serving members insinu 
ated that it would be easy to smother them. One incident of interest 
in connection with this was Mr. Hamlin s action when both open and 
covert opposition was shown to the abolition petitions. 


He insisted that it was the committee s duty to receive and report 
the petitions, and made a speech when the matter was brought before 
the House. He did not believe in the Abolitionists, but it incensed 
him to find that the gag-law had supporters in Maine. He spoke out 
his mind freely, and enunciated his anti-slavery principles and feelings 
about the Abolitionists, and adhered to these principles with perfect 
consistency to the end. The substance of the speech was well remem 
bered by those who heard it, and was noted in newspapers of the day. 
It was on precisely the same lines as speeches Mr. Hamlin made sub 
sequently on the stump and in Congress. He said : 

" I am opposed to slavery, and I will fight it if it becomes a menace to 
the liberty and welfare of our common country. I hope slavery will be 
abolished, but the Constitution could not be adopted without the recogni 
tion of slavery, and the free States are bound to maintain their sacred con 
stitutional obligations. I believe slavery to be an evil entailed on us by the 
mother country, and we must do the best with it we can under the circum 
stances. In the words of Pinckney, Slavery blights all that it touches, 
and as it is now a local trouble, we should try to confine it within as narrow 
a compass as possible to prevent it from spreading. It may die out, but 
God is sure in his own good way and time to put an end to it. It is a curse, 
a moral wrong, and hurts those who support it more than it benefits them. 
But the Abolitionists have a right to be heard. They are citizens of this 
country. They have the rights of free speech guaranteed them by the 

These declarations were practically the platform of the anti-slavery 
party until events set in motion by the slave power morally relieved 
the North from its constitutional obligations to tolerate slavery where 
it had originally existed. Yet in 1836 they were interpreted by the 
pro-slavery Democrats of Maine as an assault on the " Divine Institu 
tion." This speech irritated them, and they looked on the young 
Democrat of Hampden with disfavor. They were not numerous or 
well enough organized to make serious trouble at that time. But in 
their councils they denounced Hamlin, and began to oppose him. 
Thus the lines of cleavage were then faintly indicated in Maine which 
split the two parties asunder twenty years later, and with this incident 
begins the long and close struggle Mr. Hamlin had with the slave 
power, which is the most important service he rendered the country 
and State, and the most picturesque chapter in his life. 

While this was an era of agitation, it was also an age of reforms. 
A movement that was creating widespread interest was to secure 
cheap postage and better government mail service. The postal ser 
vice was in its infancy, and the cost of correspondence was excessive. 
It cost even twenty-five cents to send a letter of only one sheet over 
four hundred miles through the mail ; and with the increased service 


of the railroad and steamboat lines high rates of postage prevailed. 
Some relief was afforded in different parts of the country by express 
companies, which did a thriving business by carrying mail at lower 
rates than the government. In Maine, the mail service, necessarily of 
limited facilities, was accomplished chiefly by the old-fashioned stage 
coach, and the people, therefore, were very desirous of a reform. This 
movement enlisted Mr. Hamlin s sympathies. He offered a resolu 
tion in the House that throws further light on the means for trans 
porting mail within the State, and also the existing difficulties. It 
instructed the Committee on Railroads to inquire into the expediency 
of amending the general laws regulating the railroads so as to enable 
the Postmaster-General to compel a railroad to carry government mail 
whenever he required it to do so. The resolution was adopted, and 
from this time on Mr. Hamlin gave a great deal of attention to postal 
reform. Without anticipating, it may be added, he took his seat in 
the House at Washington the year the movement achieved practical 

The legislature was a theatre that reflected the dark side of life as 
well as its political and business affairs. A touching and distressing 
circumstance, revealed to the legislature, was the condition of some 
old soldiers of the war of independence. Mr. Hamlin had found 
them living in poverty, although they were the victims of accident 
rather than of willful neglect. Maine had furnished more than her 
quota of soldiers in the war of the Revolution, and some who had 
suffered wounds had become dependent on the bounty of the State 
and their friends, through the government s inability to provide prop 
erly for them after the close of the war. They were independent 
old patriots, and greatly saddened to be regarded as objects of charity 
or pensioners. Their condition demanded relief, and Mr. Hamlin 
induced the legislature to increase their bounties to fifty dollars a 
year, which was the limit the State could then afford. This was not 
much, but it was an improvement, and a step in the right direction, 
and in the end it had a good result. The legislature, once becoming 
interested in the old soldiers, considered further measures proposed 
for their relief. At the next session, Mr. Hamlin offered a resolution 
increasing the land grants to the veterans from two to six hundred 
acres, and exempted them from taxation. The bill was adopted, and 
the veterans passed their last days in comparative comfort. 

A fight then broke out between the Whigs and Democrats of 
Maine that is now historical, and which also served to push Mr. 
Hamlin more prominently before the people as a leader of his party. 
It happened to be a period of extraordinary expansion, and one con 
sequence was that there was a strong land speculative craze in vari 
ous parts of the country. Some States made a reckless use of public 


money in building railroads along routes where towns did not yet 
exist. Illinois was, perhaps, the worst sufferer of all in this respect. 
It was the Whig policy to favor internal improvements ; and at this 
time it is an interesting fact that Abraham Lincoln, then a Whig 
member of the Illinois legislature, was supporting his party. Lin 
coln s honesty and candor, in accepting his share of the responsibility 
for the catastrophe that overtook his State, were characteristic of the 
man. Maine felt the trend of affairs, and the Whigs advocated the 
building of a railroad from Wiscasset and other seaport towns to 
Quebec, by the aid of state money, and their plan stirred up a great 
deal of excitement at the time. 

The general policy of the Democratic party was to oppose the use 
of public money in aid of any enterprise that could be promoted 
through individual effort. The scheme savored of paternal legisla 
tion, and then, again, far-sighted business men saw that a reaction 
would follow the abnormal conditions of affairs described. Mr. Ham- 
lin attacked the Wiscasset railroad plan in several speeches before 
the legislature. His reasons briefly stated were, that his party prin 
ciples were opposed to the scheme ; that Maine was a poor State and 
could not afford the money ; that the promotion of such a plan might 
bring on a fever of land speculation, such as was raging in other 
States ; that, finally, it was more or less of a Whig scheme, which, if 
realized, might become in their hands a dangerous piece of machinery 
that would enable them to get a firm grip on the state government. 
This provoked a fierce discussion, but in the end the Democrats tri 
umphed and killed the bill. Not yet feeling quite secure against the 
temptations of speculation and paternal legislation, Mr. Hamlin, at a 
subsequent session of the legislature, led a movement that secured 
the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution of Maine prohibit 
ing the State from increasing its debt over $300,000. 

This prudent legislation saved Maine to the Democrats in the fall 
elections of 1837. This was a year of disastrous panics and depres 
sion in business. As a consequence, a reaction set in against the 
National Democratic party that reached high tide three years later 
in the election of Harrison to the presidency. In Maine, Governor 
Dunlap was reflected, and the legislature was once more controlled 
by the Democrats. Mr. Hamlin s leadership, in the preceding House, 
made him his party s logical candidate for speaker, and he was 
elected, being at that time twenty-eight years old, the youngest man 
yet to fill the speaker s chair. Elisha H. Allen, still the Whig leader, 
was his competitor. Among the leading members of this House were 
Rufus K. Goodenow, a Whig, of Paris, and a member of Congress 
in 1849; the Rev. Ebenezer Knowlton, of Montville, who was one 
of Maine s first Republican congressmen ; Alfred Reddington, of 


Augusta, a lifelong friend of the Speaker, and adjutant-general of the 
State in 1849; At wood Levensaler, a powerful Democratic leader in 
the shipbuilding district of Thomaston, and always Mr. Hamlin s 
personal friend ; Randolph A. L. Codman, a promising lawyer of 
Portland ; Ralph C. Johnson, of Belfast, and Joshua Lowell, of East 
Machias. Over the Senate presided N. S|. Littlefield, a Democrat of 
Bridgton, who served in the Twenty-seventh and Thirty-first Con 
gresses. In the governor s council was another lifelong friend of Mr. 
Hamlin s, General Samuel Veazie, a leading banker of Maine, and 
one of that patriotic group of financiers who, at the outbreak of the 
civil war, came forward and offered the government large loans to 
meet its immediate needs in confronting the crisis. 

One of Speaker Hamlin s first acts was to give a hearing to a num 
ber of students at Waterville College, who had started a movement 
to abolish capital punishment in Maine, and wanted an opportunity to 
present their arguments to the legislature. The times and conditions 
were hardly favorable for such a movement, but the young men were 
very earnest, and determined to make a beginning at least. The 
death penalty was then the law of every State in the Union and of 
every nation. In the United States it was generally upheld as a 
necessity, and supported by a conservative religious elements in the 
belief that it was sanctioned by the Bible. One of the students was 
J. Young Scammon, then of Bath, who, as a young man, was giving 
promise of great talents. In subsequent years he ranked among the 
first men at the Chicago bar, and was a Republican leader of note in 
Illinois. Scammon at once impressed himself on Mr. Hamlin as a 
sincere and able young man, and he obtained for the student a hear 
ing before the Judiciary Committee. He gave close attention to their 
arguments ; it was the first time the subject of the death penalty had 
ever been pressed on him for his consideration and action. His incli 
nations were against it, and now that he gave his thoughts to it, he 
saw it in the light of a reproach to civilization. To the great pleasure 
of the college boys he warmly indorsed their views, and when the 
Judiciary Committee agreed to report favorably, Mr. Hamlin promised 
that he would present the bill to the House and make a speech. He 
told Scammon that "he had enlisted in this war to win." 1 He made 
a speech that stirred up a vigorous discussion throughout the State. 
He never lost interest in the matter. He wanted to see the death 
penalty abolished by civilized nations, and in his family and among 

1 It is an interesting coincidence that, practically, Mr. Hamlin s first act as the 
official representative of his party, and his last appearance before the legislature 
of Maine, just half a century afterwards, were in opposition to capital punishment. 
The law was repealed in 1887 for the last time, after a short revival, as a result of 
his plea. Thus he literally fulfilled his promise to J. Young Scammon. 


his friends spoke with a good deal of feeling against the law of capital 
punishment. He adhered to the same views he presented before the 
legislature in 1837. His general argument was as follows : l - 

"I am opposed to capital punishment on general humane prin 
ciples, and also because it does not serve as a deterrent ; finally, 
because it is not in accordance with the great and fundamental truths 
of the Sacred Book. The world has become more merciful and 
kinder since the coming of Christ. It is learning to prefer his teach 
ings, Love thy neighbor as thyself and * Return good for evil, to 
the law of Moses, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The 
world, also, better understands the frailties of mankind and the laws 
of heredity. Capital punishment is now inflicted chiefly for two 
offenses against God and man, murder and treason. But death was 
once the penalty for several scores of offenses in England, including 
even petty larceny. It is on record that a woman was once hanged 
in London for stealing bread for her starving children. 

" That was truly said to be an age of barbarism, and we would not 
sanction these barbarous acts. Capital punishment belongs to that 
age ; it is, indeed, a relic of barbarism, and a blot on our progressive 
civilization. It ought to be wiped out. It is not a deterrent because 
it does not deter. The lessons of history teach us that executions 
draw crowds of morbid curiosity-seekers, and act as an incentive to 
the unfortunates who are naturally depraved to commit crime. It is 
the duty of society to protect itself, not to take revenge. Men who 
have taken lives should be immured and kept apart from society. 
With only their thoughts for company, their punishment is more ter 
rible than death. The prospect of solitary confinement, without hope 
of pardon, might act as a stronger deterrent on habitual criminals, 
who see in their execution a chance to glory in their brutal notoriety. 
But the history of criminal jurisprudence also teaches us that crim 
inals do not always consider the penalty for their acts. An unfortu 
nate man may lead a criminal life on account of bad associations in 
his youth. Society ought to consider these things, and give him the 
benefit of corrective influences. 

" The argument that capital punishment is sanctioned by the Bible 
is inconsistent with the spirit of that holy book and the teachings of 
Christ. The thing about the Bible that impresses me most is that it 
teems with love for humanity. Christ is the one great and divine 
figure in that Book, and do we not take our teachings from him? He 
is the one we believe in all things, for he is the Son of God. Moses 
was not, and why should we follow his commands in this matter ? 
Moses said God commanded him to kill a man for working on Sun- 

1 This was reproduced from memory, but is believed to be literally correct. 
C. H. 


day. Does mankind believe that ? The Old Testament also says : 
When a man has taken a wife, and it comes to pass that she finds no 
favor in his eyes, then let him give her a bill of divorcement, and give 
it into her hands and send her out of his house. What would become 
of our modern society if we lived up to that ? Suppose we lived ver 
batim up to the command, * an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth ? 
All that take life, whether in self-defense or in the heat of passion, 
would come under that penalty. Moses did not discriminate, but 
society does discriminate, for it draws the line between murder and 
manslaughter. Thus it rejects the exact letter of Moses teachings, 
although there are those who insist that in inflicting capital punish 
ment society literally interprets the Scriptures. They have as little 
authority for claiming this as they have for justifying capital punish 
ment on the saying, < Whosoever shall shed man s blood, by man shall 
his blood be shed. That saying is doubted by some of the greatest 
students of the Bible. The original can be translated a dozen differ 
ent ways. But, to my way of thinking, the whole question, from a 
Biblical point of view, is that it is more Christian to follow the merci 
ful Christ than the revengeful Moses. Christ never justified the tak 
ing of life. 

"The most terrible thing society can do is to hang an innocent 
man. But it has done that awful thing more than once. Let us 
remember what that good and great soldier and statesman, Lafayette, 
said : Not until you can prove the infallibility of human tribunals, 
will I approve the justice of capital punishment. 

The result of the agitation of capital punishment in 1837 was > that 
a moral victory was won by the passing of a law that dated the execu 
tion of a criminal convicted of murder one year after his sentence had 
been pronounced on him, and also requiring the governor to issue 
the death warrant. There was a steady growth of sentiment after 
this in favor of repealing the statute, and the law was subsequently 
abolished, to be revived by a small majority vote in the legislature in 
1883, and finally revoked four years afterwards. 

For several years there had been trouble brewing over the bound 
ary line between Maine and New Brunswick, and this year it threat 
ened to bring on serious consequences. In the preceding legislature, 
Mr. Hamlin served on the committee that had this question in charge 
for Maine, and by familiarizing himself with the facts of the case at 
that time he was now able to act and speak with authority. There 
was a growing friction between the inhabitants of Maine and New 
Brunswick, along the disputed territory, and far-seeing men in Maine 
believed that, unless the government took steps to settle the dispute, 
there might be danger of national complications. One of the first 
things Mr. Hamlin did, after taking the speaker s chair, was to appoint 


a committee to investigate the situation in cooperation with a com 
mittee from the Senate. The two parties in Maine were entirely in 
accord on the Northeastern boundary question, and passed a resolu 
tion authorizing Governor Dunlap to call on President Van Buren to 
have the boundary line explored and surveyed, and monuments 
erected in accordance with the provisions of the treaty of 1783. But 
the national administration failed to see the necessity of acting. In 
putting the matter off, the government allowed Maine s interests to 
become entangled with other affairs, which were bunched together, 
so to speak, and settled at a cost to the State, under the Ashburton 
treaty of 1842, of 1,200,000 acres of land. 

But, not to anticipate further, although the government was sloth 
ful, not understanding the watchfulness of the British diplomat, the 
legislature of Maine was on the alert. Plans were discussed and 
pushed for constructing military roads through the County of Aroos- 
took to the scene of contention, and for providing the State with 
adequate coast defense. Mr. Hamlin enlisted in this work with a 
great deal of interest. He came to the conclusion that the country 
needed a thorough system of coast defense, and when he entered 
the United States Senate strongly urged the government to protect 
the country in this way. But nothing came from the military prepa 
rations the government made this year, and the legislature adjourned 
without leaving anything else to be recorded of public or personal 

The tide was still running against the Democracy on account of 
the panics of 1837, and this year the Whigs elected their candidate 
for governor, Edward Kent, of Bangor, over Gorham Parks, a former 
Democratic congressman from the same city, by a plurality of less 
than five hundred votes. The Whigs also carried the House in 
Maine by a substantial majority. This campaign became historic, 
and Governor Kent attained a national prominence. He was an 
able, scholarly man, a graduate of Harvard, very popular personally, 
and well qualified to sit in the Senate. He did not desire a national 
career, however, and declined a post in President Taylor s Cabinet in 
1848, although he did accept the consulship at Rio Janeiro, and later 
in life was a member of the Supreme Court of Maine. Governor 
Kent, on taking the executive chair, at once applied himself with 
zeal to the Northeastern boundary question, to bring about a settle 
ment if possible. To quote Israel Washburn, Jr., Maine s war gov 
ernor : " Governor Kent knew more about this question than anybody 
else in the country." 

The Whigs organized the House, and elected Elisha H. Allen 
speaker over Mr. Hamlin, who returned to the floor as the leader of 
his party. In this legislature, Mr. Hamlin made some strong friends. 


In the House was John Searle Tenney, then a Whig, of Norridge- 
wock, who subsequently became chief justice of Maine. Abner 
Coburn, of Skowhegan, was later governor of the State, and is 
remembered also for his substantial and practical philanthropy. 
Ebenezer Webster, of Orono, was one of the leading lumbermen of 
Penobscot County, and always a close frienci of Mr. Hamlin s. George 
F. Patten was a large shipbuilder of Bath. John West, of Franklin, 
was one of the first men President Lincoln appointed to office under 
the revenue law. At Mr. Hamlin s request, Mr. Lincoln made Mr. 
West collector of internal revenue, in spite of the fact that the entire 
Maine congressional delegation had united in support of another 
man. Richard H. Vose was a prominent lawyer of Augusta. Noah 
Barker, of Exeter, was afterward state land agent. N. S. Little- 
field still presided over the Senate, which the Democrats controlled. 
Among Mr. Hamlin s friends in that body were Daniel Emery, of 
Hampden, and Job Prince, of Turner. Timothy Boutelle, Thomas 
Robinson, and Benjamin Randall, leading lawyers of that period, were 
other prominent members of the Senate. 

The depression in business following the panic caused a great deal 
of suffering among the poor people in the country, and in Maine a 
peculiar condition of affairs existed that would not be tolerated to-day. 
The poor-debtor law had some technical features that enabled shys 
ters and Shylocks to take unfair advantages of men in debt at a cost 
of unnecessary suffering and expenditure of money. There were some 
hard-hearted men, who made a practice of issuing a writ, arresting a 
debtor and clapping him in jail before he could take advantage of 
the law that was framed for the poor debtor s benefit. It happened 
that some deserving men, who would have paid off their debts in 
time, were thrown into prison by shysters in order that the latter 
might get business. A great deal of complaint was heard, and when 
some distressing cases came to Mr. Hamlin s personal knowledge, he 
went to work to prevent this gross misuse of the law. He incorpo 
rated his ideas in a bill, and presented them in a speech, sternly 
denouncing the causes of the misery. Legislatures are conservative 
bodies, and while Mr. Hamlin made a good beginning in this House, 
he did not wholly accomplish the reform he desired until the next 
legislature met. He succeeded then to his satisfaction, and chapters 
366 and 412, Statutes of 1839, and chapter 58 of the Statutes of 1840, 
embody the results of his work. 

As the state campaign of 1838 approached, the Democratic party 
resolved to make a supreme effort to win. Mr. Hamlin appears to 
have come into the councils of his party soon after he was elected 
to the legislature. One of the men talked of as the Democratic can 
didate for governor was John Fairfield, of Saco. Mr. Hamlin knew 


Mr. Fairfield well, and not only advocated his nomination, but organ 
ized the eastern part of Maine in his interests. Mr. Fairfield had 
been reporter of decisions of the Supreme Court of Maine, and was 
now serving his second term in Congress. He was able, far-seeing, 
upright, and a decided power in his party. Mr. Hamlin believed that 
Mr. Fairfield had a future before him, and might have a national 
career. 1 Mr. Fairfield was nominated by the Democracy, and in an 
exciting campaign was elected over Governor Kent by about three 
thousand plurality. The Democrats also carried the legislature, and 
reflected Mr. Hamlin speaker over his friend Mr. Allen. In this 
legislature there were also men who attained some distinction in 
Maine. Joseph G. Cole, Mr. Hamlin s former law preceptor, was a 
leading member of the House. A man of promise was Charles 
Andrews, of Turner. He read law with Mr. Hamlin, who encour 
aged him to enter politics. He became speaker of the House in 
1843, was elected to Congress in 1850, but died during his term. 
Ezra B. French, of Nobleboro, was a member of the Thirty- sixth 
Congress, and afterwards second auditor of the United States 
Treasury Department. Shepherd Cary, of Houlton, served one term 
in Congress. W. B. S. Moor, of Waterville, was elected attorney- 
general of Maine in 1843, and was a member of the United States 
Senate by appointment for a session. Other members, well known 
in Maine at the time, and among Mr. Hamlin s friends, were Samuel 
Dyer, of Sebago, and Lyman Rawson, of Rumford. In the Senate 
were Isaac Reed, of Waldoboro, Hiram Belcher, of Farmington, and 
Hezekiah Williams, of Castine, all of whom were subsequently mem 
bers of Congress. Job Prince, president of the Senate, and Charles 
Holden, an able journalist of Portland, were among Mr. Hamlin s 
closest friends, and with him joined the Republican party in 1856. 

Party lines now became more strongly defined in Maine. Governor 
Fairfield led off at the opening of the session with a message in oppo 
sition to internal improvements as a national measure, and taking no 
less strong grounds upon the boundary question than did Governor 
Kent. He said in part : 

" The general government must soon feel it to be its unavoidable duty 
to insist upon a termination of this question peaceably, if possible, but 
at all events and at all hazards to see it terminated. If, however, the gen 
eral government, under no circumstances, should be disposed to take the 
lead in measures less pacific than those hitherto pursued, yet, I trust, we 
are not remediless. If Maine should take possession of her territory up to 

1 During the few years Mr. Fairfield was in the Senate, he impressed his party 
as a strong man. He received a large vote for Vice-President in the Democratic 
National Convention of 1844. His sudden death in 1848 cut short a promising 


the line of the treaty of 1783, resolved to maintain it with all the force she 
is capable of exerting, any attempt on the part of the British government 
to wrest that possession from her must bring the general government to 
her aid and defense, if the solemn obligations of the Constitution of the 
United States are to be regarded as of any validity. This step, however, 
is only to be taken after matured deliberation. Once taken it should never 
be abandoned." 

Governor Fairfield was warranted in taking this strong tone in his 
message. In a short time after the governor had denned the position 
of Maine towards the disputed territory, the State was electrified at 
the news that a large body of Canadians were robbing the disputed 
land of its timber. The governor promptly ordered Sheriff Hastings 
Strickland, of Penobscot County, to organize a posse of men and drive 
out the intruders. Great excitement prevailed, and an unmistakable 
war fever arose. With two hundred men the sheriff rapidly proceeded 
to the scene of action in what is now Aroostook County. The Cana 
dians heard of the sheriff s movements, and possessing themselves 
of arms in the province arsenal in Woodstock, they prepared, three 
hundred strong, to stand their ground. But when the Canadians 
heard that the Americans had a cannon they fled, and, as luck would 
have it, Land Agent Mclntire went after them. He and his men 
captured twenty poachers, but the same night a body of Canadians 
dropped down on Mr. Mclntire, and carried him and his men off to 
Woodstock. Maine and New Brunswick began to arm themselves. 
The legislature appropriated $800,000, and the governor ordered a 
draft of 10,000 men to protect our claims. Congress appropriated 
$10,000,000, and authorized the President to call for 50,000 volunteers 
to help Maine. General Scott came to Augusta to take charge of the 
military operations. He opened up diplomatic negotiations between 
Governor Fairfield and Governor John Harvey, of New Brunswick, 
with the result that each promised to withdraw his forces from the 
disputed territory, and leave it in charge of a peace posse until a set 
tlement should be arrived at by diplomatic methods. 

Thus ended the famous Aroostook war. It was a bloodless affair, 
and yet it was a narrow escape from a collision between the two 
governments. Both sides were prepared to fight, and the loss of a 
single life might have prevented a peaceful settlement. The wonder 
is that no harm came out of all that excitement and manoeuvring. As 
a major on Governor Fairneld s staff, Mr. Hamlin was ready to take 
the field. With Lincoln he could have said in after years that he, 
too, had a military record, and told a humorous story of the war that 
was never fought. 

Mr. Hamlin was reflected to the House in the fall of 1839, and 
chosen speaker for the third time. In this House were some new 


members who were among Mr. Hamlin s closest friends and political 
associates. Among them were General John J. Perry, of Oxford, a 
lawyer and afterwards member of the Thirty-sixth Congress ; William 
C. Hammatt, of Rowland, a man of uncommon political sagacity for 
his circumstances ; Philip A. Eastman, of Strong, and a judge of pro 
bate of Franklin County ; Joseph W. Eaton, of Plymouth ; Dennis 
L. Milliken, of Burnham ; Aaron P. Emerson, of Orland ; S. R. Ly- 
man, of Portland, and William Delesdernier, long a unique character 
in the politics of Washington County. Samuel Trafton, of Cornish, 
and Joseph Dane, of Hollis, Mr. Hamlin always remembered as faith 
ful friends and legislators. Ebenezer Everett, a Whig, of Brunswick, 
was a sound lawyer and a member of the State s commission to revise 
its statutes. He was the father of the Rev. Dr. Charles Carroll 
Everett, for many years dean of the Unitarian Theological School of 
Harvard University. Edward O Brien, one of Maine s largest ship 
builders, was a member of this House. A newcomer, who was des 
tined to have a national career and enduring fame, was William Pitt 
Fessenden, then a young Whig, of Portland. Over the Senate pre 
sided Stephen C. Foster, who, with two of his colleagues, Isaac Reed, 
of Waldoboro, and David Hammons, of Oxford County, was to sit 
in Congress with the Speaker of the House. Samuel H. Blake, of 
Bangor, was a future attorney-general of the State. Levi Bradley, 
of the same city, was a leading lumberman of the State. Franklin 
Smith, of Anson, was a prominent landowner. A coming governor 
and rival of Mr. Hamlin s for senatorial honors was John W. Dana, 
who was then beginning his legislative career in the House. Another 
future associate in the House, at Washington, was Elbridge Gerry, of 
Waterford, who was clerk of this House. 

During this session of the legislature an effort was renewed in the 
United States Senate to repeal the fisheries bounty of $250,000. 
This was a movement that was aimed directly at one of Maine s chief 
interests. Mr. Hamlin gave his earnest attention to the subject. 
With other leading members of the legislature, Mr. Hamlin met this 
movement with a prompt remonstrance. This was accomplished by 
the appointment of a select committee chosen from both Houses at 
Mr. Hamlin s suggestion. He interested himself in the committee s 
work, and its report was his argument in favor of retaining the bounty. 
Briefly, Mr. Hamlin demonstrated that the fisheries bounty act should 
be maintained because the fisheries produced brave sailors for the 
navy in the wars of 1776 and 1812, and because the act also fostered 
the shipbuilding business. Hence, the fisheries bounty was national, 
not entirely sectional in its workings, and hence the considerations of 
national interests and safety demanded its maintenance. This was 
still another subject with which Mr. Hamlin became prominently 
identified in his national career. 


Another question of national and state interest that obtained Mr. 
Hamlin s active support in this legislature, and throughout his whole 
term of public service, was the settlement of the French spoliation 
claims. By the treaty of 1831, France agreed to pay the United 
States the sum of $5,000,000 for despoiling our navy in the last 
Napoleonic war. The payment was delayed for several years, and 
when the money was received it was used for government purposes. 
John Quincy Adams ascertained the fact of the government s delin 
quency, and called it severely to account. Senator Ether Shepley, 
afterwards chief justice of Maine, declared in the United States 
Senate, speaking of the claims : " Our government pocketed the con 
sideration and repudiated the debt." Maine had suffered severely 
from the depredation France and England had made on her ships, 
and even four years after Senator Shepley had urged the government 
to satisfy these just claims, the restitution had not been made. On 
March 13, 1840, Mr. Hamlin procured the passage of a resolution 
through the legislature admonishing the government that it was 
" bound upon every principle of equity to make provision for an 
indemnity to those who suffered by French spoliation upon American 
commerce prior to September, 1840; that, having compromised all 
claims upon the French government for such spoliation, and received 
an ample indemnity therefor, a longer delay on the part of the gen 
eral government in making provision for those individuals whose 
property has been appropriated for the common benefit would be 
neither expedient nor just." The sequel to this was the hard and 
conscientious work Mr. Hamlin accomplished at Washington on many 
private claims which the government had ignored. 

This was, on the whole, a good working legislature, but unfortu 
nately its reputation suffered from a senseless joke some one played 
on it in the winter. The incident was the most trying Mr. Hamlin 
experienced while speaker. There was great rejoicing among Gov 
ernor Fairfield s friends over his large plurality. One of his admirers 
was Mrs. Longley, the wife of an extensive farmer of Greene. Re 
membering how an admirer of President Jackson had presented him 
with a mammoth cheese, she bestowed on Governor Fairfield a similar 
token of her esteem. It weighed fully four hundred pounds, and 
Governor Fairfield presented a large portion of it to the legislature 
for luncheon on a certain day. The Whig members of the legisla 
ture contributed cider and brown bread to the feast. A recess of 
half an hour was taken, and the legislature adjourned to the room 
where the cheese, cider, and brown bread had been set forth. The 
cider was in a large keg. Some of the representatives drank freely, 
and it was noticed that they became voluble and animated. When 
the Speaker called the House to order, these members, at least twenty 


in number, jumped to their feet and demanded recognition. He 
recognized a member, and a yell of protest from the others arose. 
The Speaker saw that something had gone wrong, and received a 
motion to adjourn the House. But the motion was voted down in 
a storm of " Noes ! " A second met with a similar fate, and when a 
third motion was introduced, the excited members rushed to the 
Speaker s desk, shouting and waving their arms. Bedlam reigned. 
Speaker Hamlin grasped the situation, and amidst frantic demonstra 
tions and efforts to secure his recognition, declared the House ad 
journed. When they found themselves standing on the floor before 
an empty speaker s chair, the sudden change of situation brought the 
noisy representatives to a realizing sense of their conduct. One by 
one the representatives slunk out of the House into the luncheon 
room. The cider keg was still there. Some one, who had not drunk 
any of its contents, made a quiet investigation. Lo ! brandy, in large 
quantities, had been mixed with the cider. The affair created a great 
scandal, but it was never found out who had perpetrated the trick, 
although some ardent Democrats called it a Whig joke. It is hardly 
necessary to add that Speaker Hamlin s ruling was eventually upheld. 
This session closed Mr. Hamlin s terms of consecutive service in 
the legislature. He often referred to this period as the happiest in 
his public career. Undoubtedly, the experience he thus gained gave 
him the key to his success in national fields. 



THE presidential election of 1840 was preceded by the most pic 
turesque campaign in the history of the country. The Democrats 
renominated President Van Buren, and the Whigs presented General 
William Henry Harrison as their candidate. In the summer of this 
year Mr. Hamlin entered national politics, and sought his party s 
nomination for Congress, in what was called the Penobscot district. 
He was supported by the same elements that elected him to the 
legislature and the speakership of the House ; and he was opposed 
by the party leaders of Bangor, because they thought him too young, 
and also because they had a candidate of their own, A. G. Jewett, 
an able lawyer and a leading politician of Bangor. The convention 
was held at Levant, on the fourth of July. Mr. Hamlin received 
ninety-six votes, and Mr. Jewett seventy-six. This was a great sur 
prise to Mr. Hamlin s opponents. Two of the Bangor leaders were 
John S. Chadwick and Jefferson Chamberlain, sheriff and register 
of deeds of Penobscot County. When the result of the ballot was 
announced, Chadwick and Chamberlain held a short consultation. 
Then approaching the successful nominee, one of them said : " Mr. 
Hamlin, we did not know you, but we do now. Hereafter we pro 
pose to train in your company." The nomination was made unani 
mous, and the convention bestowed an additional compliment on 
Mr. Hamlin by electing him a delegate to the Democratic National 
Convention, which was held at Baltimore. After Mr. Van Buren s 
renomination, which Mr. Hamlin favored, he returned to Maine and 
took part in the closest election ever held in the State during his 

For a year or more there had been signs of a political revolution. 
Times were hard ; the people were in a state of unrest. A low tariff 
had done its work. Mr. Van Buren had given the country a good 
administration, but he was doomed to go down before a whirlwind 
of popular wrath that followed the panic of 1837. He became the 
target for abuse such as few presidential candidates have had heaped 
on them. He was represented as an unscrupulous schemer and a 
thoroughly insincere man. This was unjust to Mr. Van Buren. He 
was the first perfectly polished machine politician to reach the presi- 


dency, and was more of a politician than a statesman ; but he had 
statesmanlike qualities, and having been governor of New York, United 
States senator, secretary of state, vice-president, and president, he was 
better equipped by experience for his high position than General 
Harrison was. If Mr. Van Buren was too suave in address and 
manner to be thought sincere, he nevertheless could rise above popular 
clamor and partisanship. He stood firm for the adoption of his sub- 
treasury plan, although his position on this question was one of the 
causes of his unpopularity. Although a pro-slavery man, Mr. Van 
Buren believed in maintaining the status of affairs as established by 
the Constitution. Hence, he was not a willing instrument of the slave 
power. His opposition to the annexation of Texas proved that. But 
the people demanded a change. The Whigs were quick to see their 
opportunity. An incautious sneer at General Harrison s early life in 
a log-cabin gave them their cue. They started a movement to elect 
Harrison, the like of which has never been seen since in the United 
States. The log-cabin was the Whig emblem. Thousands were 
erected throughout the country, and miniature representations were 
carried in processions. The Whig meetings were without precedent in 
size, enthusiasm, numbers, attendance, and procedure. Tom Corwin, 
the brilliant Whig orator, addressed audiences in Ohio, some of which 
fully numbered 20,000 people. Hard cider was liberally dispensed. 
People came miles on horseback, or even on foot. Huge balls, with 
campaign mottoes painted on them, were rolled at the head of proces 
sions. Some balls were started even in Maine, and rolled through 
other States. Campaign songs, another new feature, swept over the 
country, glorifying " Tippecanoe and Tyler, too." 

In Maine the two parties contested every inch of the ground. 1 The 
Democrats renominated Governor Fairfield, and the Whigs Mr. Kent. 
By an interesting coincidence, Mr. Hamlin s opponent was his com 
petitor for legislative honors and his personal friend, Elisha H. 
Allen. Governor Fairfield had proved himself to be a strong man. 
He would have achieved a conspicuous national career had not death 
suddenly cut him down a few years after he had entered the United 
States Senate. Mr. Kent had the prestige of having once defeated 
a Democrat for governor. Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Allen " stumped " 
their district together, discussing in debate the political questions of 
the day. This was an innovation in the political customs of Maine, 
and the two candidates spoke to large audiences from the same plat 
form nearly every night for the greater part of two months. Often 
Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Allen had to room together, for the hotel ac- 

1 W. W. Story, the sculptor-artist, who was then a law student in Boston, and 
an ardent Jackson Democrat, stumped Mr. Hamlin s district for him, having made 
his acquaintance on his professional visits to Boston. 


commodations in the country districts were primitive. The times 
were rather boisterous, and the two candidates had some trying ex 
periences, but they remained good friends, and in subsequent years 
had many a laugh over their experiences in this campaign. One 
incident caused some merriment at Mr. Allen s expense. He had 
been in the habit of opening the debate. . The last night of the cam 
paign the candidates were to speak in the old city hall, in Bangor. 
Mr. Hamlin said : " Allen, you have had the advantage of speaking 
first. Now let me fire the first gun to-night." Mr. Allen assented. 
He had been in the habit of beginning the debate with a set speech, 
in which he told some capital stories, to illustrate his position. To 
Mr. Allen s utter amazement, he heard Hamlin reel off his stories 
with original applications that brought out peals of laughter. His 
discomfiture was complete when Hamlin closed and whispered to him 
in the suavest manner imaginable : "Allen, old fellow, your stories 
are so good that I thought they ought to be told twice." 

But Mr. Allen had the last laugh. In the election he had 200 
votes more than his opponent, in a total poll of 1 5,000. Mr. Hamlin 
had the satisfaction of running ahead of his party s ticket, which was 
beaten in the State. Out of 91,000 votes, Mr. Kent defeated Gov 
ernor Fairfield by a bare plurality of sixty-seven. As Maine was a 
pillar of the Democratic party, Kent s election electrified the Whigs, 
and in wild enthusiasm they expressed their joy in the following 
famous doggerel verse : 

" Have you heard the glorious news from Maine? 
Maine, she s gone hell-bent for Governor Kent, 
And Tippecanoe and Tyler, too." 

In the opinion of their opponents, the Whigs in Maine exulted a 
little too much over their victory. They had a log-cabin and a big 
gun at Hallowell. Whenever they received favorable news they set 
the gun booming. When the great news came in October that Ohio 
had fallen in line, the Whigs of Hallowell paraded their gun all over 
town ; but when they returned to fire salutes, lo ! their powder had 
disappeared. Some Democrats had pitched it into the Kennebec. 
Thus the cider trick was offset, and the laugh was turned on the 
Whigs. But in the following month pandemonium reigned wherever 
there were Whigs. They had carried the country by an immense 
majority, and elected Harrison and Tyler President and Vice- Presi 

For the next three years, Mr. Hamlin remained at home, practicing 
his profession, though he maintained a prominent part in his party s 
affairs. The Whigs jubilation was turned into grief, by the death of 
President Harrison within a month after his inauguration, and their 
sorrow into bitterness over their betrayal by Mr. Tyler. Out of their 


great victory in 1840 the Whigs reaped only disappointment. Tyler 
vetoed a bill to restore the United States Bank, and was hostile to 
Whig tariff ideas and other legislation proposed. An immediate re 
sult of Tyler s recreancy was the recuperation of the Democratic party 
in Maine, in 1841. Mr. Fan-field this time defeated Governor Kent 
by 10,000 plurality, and the next year was reflected for a fourth term 
by more than 14,000 plurality. To accommodate the new apportion 
ment under the census, the congressional election was postponed from 
1842 to 1843. Mr. Hamlin was renominated for Congress in the 
Penobscot district, and this time was elected by a majority of 1,000 
votes over Mr. Allen. 

Traveling facilities were decidedly limited when Mr. Hamlin made 
his first journey from Hampden to Washington. He had to pass over 
a circuitous route, in a number of different conveyances. From 
Hampden to Portland, he proceeded in a stage-coach, and thence by 
boat to Boston. From that city he traveled by railroad to Norwich, 
whence he crossed the Sound to Greenport. There he took the Long 
Island railroad to New York, and thence to Philadelphia. He made 
his way to Baltimore by boat and stage, finishing his journey by rail. 
Washington was not an inspiring spectacle to one who had made this 
long journey. It was a small, straggling, overgrown, and ill-kept city 
of twenty thousand inhabitants. The streets were full of grass and 
dirt. Cows were even pastured in some of the principal streets. The 
houses were cheerless-looking. Pennsylvania Avenue was paved with 
dust or mud, according to the weather that prevailed. On a windy 
day immense clouds of dust swept over the street, sometimes making 
it hard for pedestrians to see their way. On a rainy day the avenue 
was a bank of thick, black mud. One of the few picturesque sights 
was the old Capitol. The Washington of that period was a disgrace. 
Few congressmen brought their families to live with them, and it was 
the custom for them to club together, hire a house, and contract with 
the landlord or a caterer to provide the table. These clubs were 
called " messes," and they were more important and exclusive than the 
name would seem to imply. Many famous measures were planned at 
" messes," and their champions appointed. It was the invariable rule 
that no member of a " mess " should invite an outsider to dinner with 
out having obtained the permission of his associates. Strange to say 
refusal rarely gave offense. 

Congress was a more demonstrative and talkative body than the one 
which now assembles at Washington. Many members wore the old- 
fashioned swallow-tailed coat, and others the buff waistcoat. Mr. 
Hamlin adopted the former garment, and wore it all the rest of his 
life. Although there was not that brilliant social atmosphere of to-day, 
yet in their polite intercourse the members of Congress were very 


ceremonious. The speeches were ornate, full of high-sounding periods, 
and, as a rule, very long. It was the closing period of a picturesque 
era one full of extravagant talk and demonstration that preluded an 
approach of a time of violent action. There were still orators in 
Congress who regularly announced in their speeches their willingness 
to shed their blood on their country s altar, simply to gratify a weak 
fondness for playing on their own emotions. Personal habits were not 
as good as now. There was much drinking arid card-playing. Public 
altercations were not infrequent. Personal allusions in debate were 
frequent. Dueling was still practiced. Party feeling, too, was intense, 
and party discipline was rigid. There could not be much intercourse 
between the people of the various parts of the country, on account 
of the scant and expensive facilities of travel. Hence, provincialism 
and partisanship of a narrow kind were to a considerable extent the 
outcome of the order of things. 

When Mr. Hamlin took his seat in Congress, slavery was looming 
up as a political issue, and events were soon set in motion that formed 
a momentous epoch in the history of the Republic. It was not gen 
erally perceived at this time that the North and the South were each 
fostering a civilization of its own, and that the two people each looked 
at the Union from a totally different point of view. The North had 
developed its civilization through free institutions, and was a demo 
cracy ; the South had developed its civilization through slavery, and 
was controlled by a slaveholding aristocracy. Through the encour 
agement of free labor the North had been able to master its own 
resources, and had become a community that was self-supporting and 
the embodiment of progress. Through its blind attachment to slave 
labor, the South had narrowed down into an agricultural, free-trade 
section, whose productive capacity was practically limited to that of 
the slave, and was dependent on the world for the staples of life in 
exchange for its cotton, tobacco, rice, and indigo. The two sections 
had been bound together by the possession of a common glorious 
heritage, and their desire to remain in union with each other had been 
cemented by various acts of legislation, such as the recognition of 
slavery by the Constitution and the Missouri Compromise. But 
slavery had proved to be the evil genius of the South ; it had blinded 
a generous and chivalrous people to its moral evils and its blighting 
effect. It had become so thoroughly the basis of Southern business, 
social, and political life, that it could be thrown out of the body politic 
only by a gigantic convulsion. But this was not realized until years 

Mr. Hamlin entered Congress when the slave power, not content 
with controlling the entire South, was beginning to extend the insti 
tution in the hope that it might control the entire country. But this 


was developed year by year, and the part he played in frustrating 
this conspiracy is the role of his life. It is interesting to observe his 
point of view at this juncture. One of the anti-slavery men in this 
Congress, with whom he was associated, was Henry Williams, of 
Taunton, Mass. Mr. Hamlin told Mr. Williams that, before leav 
ing his home, he had made up his mind that he would not interfere 
with slavery in the Southern States, and would give the South all 
its constitutional rights ; but if the Democratic party went farther 
than this and made the extension of slavery over free territory its 
policy, he would abandon the party. In other words, this was the 
position taken by Northern men, such as Lincoln and Hamlin, at this 
stage. They regarded slavery as an evil entailed on the United States 
by the mother country, and they also believed that the Constitution 
could not have been formed and the Union established without the 
recognition of the peculiar institution. But they also held that the 
Constitution was to be fairly interpreted when it gave the States that 
right to regulate their own affairs. The Northern States had expelled 
slavery, while the South had retained it. Under the Constitution, 
neither had a right to interfere with the other in the matter of local 
affairs, and slavery was a local institution, and could be regulated by 
the individual States precisely as the lottery was. 

But John C. Calhoun and his school of statesmen, who saw the 
North outstripping the South, hoped to maintain the political prestige 
of the South by making slavery national. These protagonists of the 
drama of 1860 are now to be regarded as products of slavery, as 
examples of its warping and narrowing influence. They were sincere 
and personally pure men, and in censuring them for their acts, their 
birth, circumstances, and environments are to be considered. They 
are to be judged as singularly blind to the debasing effects of slavery, 
and as reckless in deluding their people into a course that they might 
not have followed if they could have clearly understood the progress 
the North made under free institutions. Yet, in the case of Calhoun, 
it is to be remembered that he was not in advance of his environ 
ments. The idea that the government was a compact, and that each 
State could withdraw when it desired, was evolved to give slavery pro 
tection, a last refuge to insure its existence. This was the natural 
fruit of the institution itself. But Calhoun cannot escape the respon 
sibility of doing more than any other man of his day to implant the 
doctrine of state sovereignty in the minds of his . generation as the 
shibboleth of the South, and to initiate the gigantic conspiracy to fasten 
slavery on Northern soil. When Mr. Hamlin now entered public life 
this baneful doctrine had thoroughly impregnated the Southern mind. 
The Southern statesmen of this era were probably abler dialecticians 
and orators than their Northern colleagues ; but in reasoning from 


false premises they reached false conclusions. Hence, believing in 
slavery and thinking that they still lived under the old confederacy, 
they held the Abolitionists, protective tariffs, and fishery bounties to 
be the cause of friction between the two sections. The North was 
also guilty of temporizing with its conscience, and made compromises 
in the delusive hope of maintaining peace. This, then, was the situa 
tion when Mr. Hamlin became a member of the House, and a glance 
at the personnel of this Congress is interesting. 

While the Twenty-eighth Congress did not rank intellectually 
with its immediate predecessors and successors, it was one of the 
most important and interesting assemblages that ever legislated on 
issues affecting the vital welfare of this nation. Webster, Clay, and 
Calhoun were missed in the Senate, and the House was filled with 
young men who had yet to make themselves felt in public affairs ; 
still, there were strong men in either branch, and future leaders were 
to play leading roles in the greatest drama of the American people. 
Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri, was the Roman of the Senate. He 
was a massive defender of the Constitution, and the Democracy s 
ablest expounder of the pure Jeffersonian doctrine of government. 
He was honest and a born leader. Hence, he was often a rock in the 
way of the slave power. In contrast to Benton was his colleague, 
David R. Atchison, who was high in the inner councils of the slave 
hierarchy, as was proved by his leadership in the nefarious effort to 
force slavery into Kansas. He is also remembered as the " one-day 
President," for he claimed to have acted as President the Sunday on 
which General Taylor refused to take the oath of office. Personally, 
Mr. Atchison was well liked. The divided state of sentiment at the 
North was represented in Levi Woodbury and Charles G. Atherton, 
the one a strong type of the Jackson school, the other a Northern 
man of Southern principles, who figures in history in connection 
with the so-called "Atherton gag," an infamous rule of Congress 
which forbade the introduction of any petition relating to slavery. 
Another commanding figure of the Jackson school was the able and 
upright Silas Wright, of New York. One of Pennsylvania s senators 
was the unfortunate Buchanan. Prominent among the Whigs was 
Rufus Choate, the greatest of all American advocates, a wizard of 
oratory, a patriotic but unsuccessful statesman. Willie P. Mangum, 
of North Carolina, and John M. Berrien, of Georgia, were among the 
ablest statesmen of the Whig party, and worthy representatives of 
the national idea of government formulated by the South s greatest 
men, which was now being undermined by the insidious state-rights 
doctrine of Calhoun. George McDuffie was the typical South Caro 
lina state-rights man. Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, was another 
Northern man of Southern ideas, for he was Mr. Calhoun s most 


active agent in popularizing the Texas scheme among the Northern 
States, though in all justice to Mr. Walker it must be added that he 
was sincere, and in 1861, after hostilities had begun, won the respect 
of Mr. Lincoln s administration for his valuable services to the gov 
ernment in upholding our credit in Europe. William R. King, who 
was Vice-President under Mr. Pierce, was the other senator from 
Alabama, an amiable man, a gentleman of the old school of deport 
ment. From Ohio came William Allen, a plain, blunt-spoken man of 
the people. William C. Rives, of Virginia, may be regarded as one 
of many Southern men who honestly regretted the secession move 
ment, and yet allowed their course to be shaped by their respective 
States. R. H. Bayard represented the powerful Bayard following of 
Delaware. William L. Dayton, who was the first candidate of the 
Republican party for Vice-President, and Benjamin Tappan, of Ohio, 
were among the scant number of anti-slavery leaders this Senate was 
to produce. 

John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, was 
the most commanding figure of the House of Representatives. He 
was now in his final battles for the rights of free speech and petition. 
Fortunate it was for the republic that he was not reflected to the 
presidency, for he sought a vindication by entering the House. 
There he achieved that career which is one of the inspiring pages 
in the annals of the nation. In this Congress he was blazing the 
way for the coming of the Republican party, and some of its future 
pioneers were already assembling by his side. The most active repre 
sentative of the Calhoun doctrine in the House was Henry A. Wise, 
of Virginia. The most conspicuous opponent of slavery on the floor 
was the towering Abolitionist of Ohio, Joshua R. Giddings. George 
C. Dromgoole, of Virginia, a clever parliamentarian, was the leader of 
the Southern Democrats. Samuel F. Vinton, of Ohio, a man of pro 
nounced ability and high character, was prominent among the Whig 
members. Another leading Whig was Robert C. Winthrop, of Mas 
sachusetts, a man of fine scholarship, who afterwards became speaker 
of the House, though he did not retain his prominence, owing to his 
conservative tendencies on the slavery issue. Still another coming 
speaker was Linn Boyd, of Kentucky. R. Barnwell Rhett, of South 
Carolina, Howell Cobb and Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, Jacob 
Thompson, of Mississippi, John Slidell, of Louisiana, Thomas L. Cling- 
man, of North Carolina, with Wise, of Virginia, formed a group of 
imperishable memory, both in the inception of the plot to break up 
the Union and its attempted execution. In contrast was a group of 
anti-slavery Democrats and Whigs. Chief among them was John P. 
Hale, one of the few avowed Abolitionists of that period, a man 
whose witty and caustic tongue the slavery men feared, while they 


could not help liking the frankness, honesty, and geniality of the man. 
Robert Dale Owen, of Indiana, was another vigorous and fearlessly 
outspoken advocate of abolition. A distinguished member of the 
New York delegation was Preston King, short and stocky in body, 
weighty in argument, and, to use Mr. Hamlin s estimate of King, " as 
true as steel to his convictions." George Rathbun, of New York, 
Robert C. Schenck and Jacob Brinkerhoff, of Ohio, Solomon Foot 
and Jacob Collamer, of Vermont, and Daniel Putnam King, of Massa 
chusetts, were also members of this group with which Mr. Hamlin 
acted on questions relating to slavery. There were also among Mr. 
Hamlin s colleagues several men who were to attain greater distinc 
tion. Andrew Johnson was a coming President. Stephen A. Douglas 
was already a rising leader of his party, and ambitious for its greatest 
honors. Hamilton Fish was destined to leave an enviable record as 
secretary of state in President Grant s Cabinet. Caleb B. Smith, of 
Indiana, was to be Mr. Lincoln s secretary of the interior. Wash 
ington Hunt was a future governor of New York. Alexander Ram 
say, then of Pennsylvania, was to represent Minnesota in the Senate, 
and to be secretary of war in Mr. Hayes s Cabinet. Cave Johnson, 
of Tennessee, was to leave this House to become postmaster-general 
under Mr. Folk s administration. In marked contrast to each other 
were Kenneth Raynor, of North Carolina, who was a loyal Union 
man during the civil war, and Thomas H. Seymour, of Connecticut, 
who was a leader of the so-called copperhead element. 

The House was not wanting in quaint personal characteristics. It 
had probably the largest man and the smallest man that ever were 
members of the House. The first was Dixon H. Lewis, of Alabama, 
who was a mountain of flesh, and had to have a chair made for him. 
But he was a giant in intellect as well. The other was Alexander H. 
Stephens, who was so small and frail in appearance that he seemed a 
youth in the last stages of consumption. But he, too, belied his 
appearance. An exceedingly eccentric character, the court jester of 
the* House, was Felix Grundy McConnell, of Alabama. He was a 
man of brilliant mental qualities, but his habits were responsible for 
his grotesque performances. At a fashionable concert given by Ole 
Bull, the Norwegian violinist, who was then the reigning musical 
favorite, McConnell interrupted the violinist in the midst of a deli 
cate passage by shouting out : " None of your highfalutin fiddling ; 
give us Hail Columbia, and bear hard on the treble." A sensation 
followed. The audience called for the police, and the officers had to 
use their clubs to eject the unruly congressman from the hall. 

The new members of Congress rapidly formed their associations. 
In the words of another writer : " Naturally enough, in what was then 
the small and contracted political and social circle of Washington, a 



man of Mr. Hamlin s striking appearance and many attainments was 
not long in making his mark. Tall and graceful in figure, with black 
and piercing eyes, a skin almost olive-colored, hair smooth, thick, 
and jetty, a manner always courteous and affable, the new member 
soon found his way into the best society of the capital. His advance 
ment to a commanding position in the political world was quite as 
rapid." 1 Mr. Hamlin was soon associated with Preston King, Jacob 
Brinkerhoff, George Rathbun, and other members of his party who 
eventually constituted a notable group of anti-slavery Democrats in 
the House. In their councils they both formulated practical and 
important measures and appointed their champions. Mr. Hamlin 
made many pleasant acquaintances outside of his political circle. A 
Unitarian church had been founded at Washington, and as the new 
faith it upheld was not popular, it had to struggle for its existence. 
Mr. Hamlin naturally inclined towards an independent religious 
belief. Among the small congregation were a few congressmen. 
One was Daniel Putnam King, a man of high character and fine fibre, 
a graduate of Harvard. Mr. Hamlin and Mr. King worked together 
to build up this little church. They became greatly interested in the 
church through its pastor, Edward Everett Hale, who had come from 
Boston to begin his ministerial duties at Washington. Mr. Hale was 
already manifesting those noble qualities of character and mind that 
have made him one of the most widely beloved citizens of his country 
and the foremost Unitarian of the land in his day. A strong personal 
affection grew up between the young congressman and his pastor, 
which developed into a firm and lasting friendship. In a personal 
letter to the author under the date of February 27, 1896, Dr. Hale 
wrote : " I supplied the pulpit at Washington for one winter. My 
memory of him (Mr. Hamlin) is as one of the pillars on whom the little 
church relied with absolute confidence. The support of members of 
Congress meant more than it does now to such a church. The 
whole attendance at the Unitarian church, of all the worshipers, 
seldom amounted to two hundred persons, and we knew very well 
that the presence among them of eleven or twelve congressmen was 
a matter of great importance in the prestige of the church. Of these 
eleven or twelve Mr. Hamlin and Mr. King were two absolutely 
reliable. There were, alas ! gentlemen who were sound Unitarians 
in New England, who were never in our little church. But we were 
sure of the two I have named. I am not speaking simply of the win 
ter when I lived in Washington, but of many years after, when I 
maintained my interest in the church and its affairs. As you know, I 
renewed my personal acquaintance with your father in Spain, where 
I owed much to his constant kindness and to that of Mrs. Hamlin. 
1 Carroll s Twelve Americans. 


I trust that you will understand how high was the esteem in which 
they were held there, and how important he made his place by the 
cordiality of his intercourse with all travelers and with the diplomatic 
circle. I was disappointed when I found no memoranda from his own 
pen which would show his interest in the affairs of our Washington 
church. But you know how active he could be without saying any 
thing of what he was doing." 



WHEN the House was being organized a parliamentary snarl 
ensued that is of both personal and political interest. The preceding 
Congress had enacted a law directing the States, that elected repre 
sentatives to Congress on a general ticket, to follow the more popular 
method of electing by districts. This was regarded as a Whig law, 
and several Democratic States, in the election of 1843, flatly disre 
garded the act on the ground that it was unconstitutional, because 
it interfered with the rights of the States. The Whig members of 
this House were determined to enforce the law if possible, and accord 
ingly drew up a protest against the seating of Democratic representa 
tives from New Hampshire, Georgia, Mississippi, and Missouri, which 
were the States in question, in order to prevent these representatives 
from voting in the election of a speaker. When the clerk called 
the House to order, that it might proceed to effect a permanent 
organization, John Campbell, a Democrat, of South Carolina, ques 
tioned the right of the members of New Hampshire to take their 
seats until the House had inquired into the mode of their election, 
and he submitted a resolution to take proceedings accordingly. But 
the clerk, believing that he was clothed only with authority to act in 
the capacity of an initiatory officer, refused to accept Mr. Campbell s 
resolution. The House was in a predicament, and David D. Barnard, 
a tenacious Whig, of New York, tried to read the Whigs protest. In 
the unorganized condition of the House, the majority members re 
fused to hear him, and proceeded to elect John W. Jones, a Democrat, 
of Virginia, speaker by a vote of 128 to 59 for John White, of Ken 
tucky, the Whig candidate. 

The members whose seats were disputed took part in the election 
of speaker, but this did not close the affair. The next day the Whigs 
were greatly exercised to find that the clerk had not incorporated 
their protest in the journal of the House, in spite of the fact that it 
had not been read. A violent wrangle followed, lasting two days. 
The Whigs tried to have the journal amended so as to have their pro 
test appear in the records of the first day. The issue was on the 
duties of the clerk, and yet the debate, after eddying around this point, 
drifted off on to the constitutional rights of the minority and majority 


members of the House, and discussions of abstract principles that 
were supposed to be involved. The Whigs did succeed in having 
their protest entered in the journal on the second day in the form of 
a resolution, but this did not satisfy them. The House became con 
fused on the question as to what constituted a House. Finally, on 
the third day, Mr. Hamlin offered a resolution directing the clerk not 
to print the protest. Robert C. Winthrop vehemently protested, and 
asked if there was a single precedent in the whole history of Con 
gress directing the clerk as to the discharge of his duties. As he 
understood, the clerk was sworn by a solemn oath to God to dis 
charge his duties to the House, and was responsible for the journal. 

Mr. Hamlin quietly pointed out the forgotten fact that the protest 
had not yet been read in the House, and that there was no legislative 
evidence that the document at issue was the same one which was 
offered on the opening day of the session, although members would 
be willing to take Mr. Barnard s personal word for it. 1 This put a 
new aspect on the debate, and in the end the House upheld Mr. 
Hamlin s position by striking the protest in the form of a resolution 
out of the record. 

Mr. Hamlin was appointed a member of the Committee on Elec 
tions, 2 and was thus immediately thrown in contact with the extreme 
Southern members of the House. Among his associates on the Com 
mittee on Elections were Stephen A. Douglas, Robert C. Schenck, 
and Garrett Davis. Speaker Jones s seat was contested by John 
Minor Botts, who won distinction by his loyalty to the Union, when 
Virginia was the seat of war. The contest between Mr. Jones and 
Mr. Botts was admittedly close, and the session of the Committee on 
Elections aroused great excitement in Congress and interest through 
out the country. Garrett Davis, the leading Whig member of the 
committee, was of that peculiar hot-headed, argumentative type of 
Southern politicians who seem to rely on the act of speech to en 
able them to come to a decision, and as Davis rarely knew his own 
mind, Mr. Hamlin s patience was more than once exhausted over 
Davis s waste of time. Finally, Davis and some of his sympathizers 
thought they could intimidate Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Douglas. The 
result was not satisfactory to Davis, and some fire-eaters indulged in 
wild threats about shooting Douglas and that " black Penobscot In 
dian," as Davis stigmatized Mr. Hamlin. The details of this affair 
were not then fully revealed, but the fact is apparent that Mr. Ham 
lin and Mr. Douglas believed that they had good reason to remember 
the old proverb that "to be forewarned is to be forearmed." As 
dueling was still in vogue, Southern fire-eaters carried pistols, and 

1 Congressional Globe, December 11, 1843, P- 2 4- 

2 Ibid., December 14, 1843, p. 36. 


drunken brawls among quick-tempered congressmen were not infre 
quent. For the first and only time in his life, Mr. Hamlin armed 
himself. Mr. Douglas also put a pistol in his pocket, and a signal 
was agreed upon in case Davis or his friends should attempt to shoot 
Mr. Hamlin or Mr. Douglas. 

At the next session of the committee, Davis once more endeavored 
to intimidate Mr. Hamlin, thinking that his threats might have had 
an effect. But he met with an emphatic resistance that completely 
threw him off his balance. 

" You shan t speak so, sir ; you shan t ! " Davis fairly screamed in 
his rage. 

" Well, no matter how I may speak, I will think as I please," re 
plied Mr. Hamlin. 

" No, sir ; no, sir ; dam me if you will. I 11 be damned if you will 
think as you please. You have no right to think at all, sir," Davis 

The shout of laughter that came from Mr. Hamlin and the other 
committeemen covered Davis with mortification at his absurd blun 
der ; but when he cooled off the session ended without further efforts 
to override Mr. Hamlin. 

General Schenck, who was an amused spectator of Davis s per 
formance, subsequently encountered the same fiery element in a dra 
matic scene on the floor, in which Davis also figured, strange to say, 
as a friend of the sturdy Ohioan. Joshua R. Giddings had been 
accused by Southern slaveholders of stealing slaves and secretly 
sending them out of the District of Columbia, and he had been vio 
lently abused on the floor of the House in connection with this charge. 
Mr. Giddings determined to make a personal explanation, but when 
he rose to speak there came cries from all over the House : " Don t 
hear him. Don t hear him. We object. We object." Great con 
fusion prevailed, but finally General Schenck got the floor and insisted 
that, in the interests of justice, Mr. Giddings should be heard. He 
closed his argument by saying : " I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that under 
the circumstances, no gentleman would object," with emphasis on the 
word " gentleman." Mr. Giddings was then allowed to have the floor. 
But this was not the end of the matter. Jacob Thompson told Mr. 
Schenck that the impression was that he had reference to Slide!!, of 
Louisiana, when he insisted that "no gentleman would object." 
Schenck denied that he had Slidell in mind when making this state 
ment, but Thompson, who was curious to know who the man was 
whom Schenck indirectly reproved, managed to badger him into mak 
ing a public disavowal the next day that Slidell was the one. But 
Slidell was not satisfied with this, and proceeded to ask Schenck so 
many annoying questions that Mr. Schenck lost his patience. In 


spite of the efforts of his friend, Governor Vance, of Ohio, to restrain 
him, Mr. Schenck took the floor and said : 

" It is evident that what the member from Louisiana desires to 
know is to whom I referred yesterday, when I said that no gentleman 
would object to the explanation of my colleague. Lest there should 
be any further doubt upon this subject, Iwill say here and now that 
I meant and referred to the drunken member from Alabama, Felix 
G. McConnell." 

A wild uproar immediately arose. McConnell rushed down the 
aisle to Schenck s seat, shaking his fist, and threatening dire revenge 
on the blunt member from Ohio. But an encounter was averted, and 
order finally restored. After the House had adjourned, Garrett Davis 
approached General Schenck, and asked him if he carried a pistol. 
Learning that he did not, Davis said : 

" You had better carry one to-day ; McConnell is swearing that he 
will shoot you on sight." 

" Still, I have n t one," replied Schenck, " and I don t know where 
to get one." 

"Take mine take mine," said Davis, pushing his weapon into 
Schenck s hand. 

For three days General Schenck kept Davis s pistol, but when he 
met McConnell face to face, the fiery Alabamian made no demon 
stration, and Mr. Davis received his pistol unused. 1 

Another incident that characterized the temper of the House was 
a personal encounter between George Rathbun and John White. 2 
Rathbun was a high-spirited Democrat and one of the Northern rep 
resentatives who heartily despised the so-called "dough-faces " and 
"fire-eaters." White was a talented man, but of a passionate disposi 
tion, and had an unruly tongue. As speaker of the preceding House 
he had offended many Democrats by his alleged partisan conduct. 
In the latter part of this session, when the House had one day re 
solved itself into the committee of the whole, some discussion arose 
as to the language that Henry Clay used in regard to the Missouri 
Compromise, which is immaterial. White contradicted a member 
who alluded to Mr. Clay s alleged words, and Mr. Rathbun spoke up, 
and said that the truth of Clay s statement was known throughout 
the House. White leaned over towards Rathbun, and in a low tone 
of voice cursed him, and applied an opprobrious epithet. According 
to Mr. Rathbun, White at the same time raised his hand to strike. 
Rathbun was too quick, and dealt White a blow. Bystanders, how 
ever, grasped the two men, and the general struggle threw the House 
into an uproar. At this moment an outsider named William S. Moor, 

1 Carroll s Twelve Americans. 

2 Congressional Globe, April 23, 1844, p. 578. 


who evidently wanted to take a hand in the fray, rushed into the 
House, and installed himself behind the railing in front of the 
Speaker s desk. The sergeant-at-arms ejected Moor, but in Moor s 
efforts to escape he drew a pistol and shot an officer in the leg. This 
brought the House to its senses. Messrs. Rathbun and White apolo 
gized and shook hands. Nevertheless an investigation was ordered, 
and when the report was made, Mr. White took exceptions because, 
forsooth, the report neglected to state that he had sworn at Mr. Rath- 
bun in a low tone of voice. John P. Hale saw the Pickwickian trend 
of the affair, and with some sarcasm observed that if Mr. White did 
whisper his insult to Mr. Rathbun, it magnified the offense, because 
White must have been calm and cool at that moment. The usual 
motion to expel was made with the usual result, the report was 
tabled. White left Congress at the end of the term, and the next 
year died by his own hand. 

A true index of the attitude of public men of the day towards 
slavery is to be found in the records of this House on the question 
of retaining or abolishing the twenty-first rule, which is better known 
as the "infamous gag-law." From the beginning of the government, 
Congress had received petitions in opposition to slavery, and in 1836 
the slave power passed a rule in Congress to table without discussion 
any petition relating to slavery. The immediate result was that anti- 
slavery sentiment at the North was increased, and feeling between the 
two sections of the country became more embittered. It was even 
charged by John Minor Botts that the slave power conceived the 
gag-law with this very object in view, in order to help bring about 
a separation. But whether this claim was correct or not, the adoption 
of the obnoxious measure had that effect. The debates that the 
gag-law gave rise to in Congress were widely circulated throughout 
the country, and the Southern leaders of the slave party eventually 
systematically deceived the Southern people as to the sentiments, 
intentions, and character of the Northern people. But in the end 
the gag-law became a mighty engine in the hands of John Quincy 
Adams for the destruction of its own creator. As a natural cham 
pion of free speech and the right of petition, this measure aroused 
his sense of justice and his pugnacious nature. Certainly no more 
despotic rule was ever passed by a body of men calling themselves the 
representatives of a self-governing people than this gag-law. Under 
its provisions a complaisant speaker would refuse to allow a petition 
to be presented that seemed to him to reflect on slavery, no matter 
what its language might be. The House of Representatives then did 
have a " czar." 

Mr. Adams had been waging unremitting warfare on the twenty- 
first rule since its adoption, and now victory seemed nearly within his 


grasp. It was in the preceding House that the effort was made to 
censure him. In this House Mr. Adams knew there were new mem 
bers on whom he could count, and he was desirous of getting them 
into action against the tyrannical rule. Mr. Adams was now seventy- 
seven years of age, and yet his mind was as clear, his will as inflexible, 
and his heart as stout as ever. He was bath hated and feared by the 
slave representatives, and still they were forced to acknowledge his 
superior ability even to their cost. The old Puritan undoubtedly en 
joyed a savage delight in fighting the slave party in the House single- 
handed. One day, when Adams was laying round him with terrific 
effect, and opponent after opponent had gone down under his deadly 
fire of facts and withering sarcasm, a despairing Southern member 
turned to Mr. Hamlin, and said : " It is useless to debate with Adams. 
He knows so much that, one way or another, and despite the devil, he 
can, when he will, make the greatest wrong appear the greatest right." 
The respect in which Mr. Adams s ability was held was shown in the 
fact that although Speaker Jones knew that the veteran intended to 
reopen his batteries on the twenty-first rule, he nevertheless appointed 
Mr. Adams chairman of the Committee on Rules, the very body that 
would first act upon the question of retaining or abolishing his 
bete noire the gag-law. 

A few weeks after the House had been organized, the committee 
was ready to make its report, when a story was circulated that Mr. 
Adams had induced the latter to omit the twenty-first rule. Mem 
bers poured out of the cloak rooms on to the floor, and great ex 
citement prevailed. Mr. Dromgoole, the skillful Democratic leader 
and a member of the Committee on Rules, practically confirmed the 
story by saying that his colleagues had made material changes in the 
rules, and that he would like to have the report recommitted, because 
their important sessions had not been fully attended. By admitting 
in the next breath that he had absented himself from the meetings 
of the committee, Mr. Dromgoole unwittingly revealed the fact that 
there had been perfect confidence that the old rules would not be 
changed, and that he and the other slavery representatives had been 
beaten through inattention to their duties. 

But the incautious E. J. Black, of Georgia, at once put the anti- 
slavery men on their guard by boldly charging that the committee 
had dropped the twenty-first rule, and he announced with vehemence 
his intention of defying any committee, or House, that would allow 
his constituents to be assailed by " incendiaries and Abolitionists " by 
abolishing the twenty-first rule. "Talk to me," he exclaimed, "about 
Whigs and Democrats when abolition is the question before the 
House ! " Motion after motion followed Black s outbreak in rapid 
succession, and another parliamentary snarl threatened to ensue. Mr. 


Hamlin made up his mind that it would be best to declare his con 
victions on the gag-law, and try to bring matters to a crisis. He 
took the floor, and in a few words pointed out that the question before 
the House was on the motion to recommit the rules with instructions 
to the committee. He said he was opposed to both recommitting 
and instructing, because the real question involved, which was the 
retention or the rejection of the twenty-first rule, must be decided in 
the House, and there was no use in a recommitment. Mr. Hamlin 
next proceeded to enter an impersonal and yet emphatic protest on 
behalf of the anti-slavery men in the House against the intimidating 
tactics of Black, in these words : 

" The time has gone by, if it ever existed, when the galvanic starts of 
any member can produce an impression on this House. I for one shall 
vote on every question according to the dictates of my judgment. I shall 
vote against the motion to recommit and instruct, . . . because this ques 
tion can be determined in the ordinary way of doing business. If the rules 
should be reported again without the twenty-first rule, it will involve the 
decision of the question of restoring it ; if they should be reported with it, 
this would involve the decision of the question of abolishing it. ... A 
word as to the position in which I am placed. I do not wish to have my 
views on this important subject mistaken, nor my votes misconstrued by 
giving them on mere collateral issues. I shall vote against this twenty-first 
rule, because I believe the right of petition to be a constitutional one, and 
not dependent on the judgment of any member of the House, or any other 
body. When this House declares in advance that it will not receive peti 
tions of a certain class, it prejudges the matter and comes in conflict with 
a constitutional right. I know that any action on these petitions must 
proceed from the votes of a majority ; and, therefore, it is inferred that a 
majority must decide against them in advance. But if a constitutional 
right can be taken away in the judgment of a majority on this question, 
the same thing may be done on any other question. I am in favor of 
rejecting the twenty-first rule, and in favor of receiving all petitions that 
may be offered ; and I am for referring them to committees in favor of the 
objects embraced. Let this committee report to us what are the duties we 
owe not to the South, but to the Union, the whole Union, and nothing 
but the Union. Then it will be seen if we do not come up to the mark; 
and we will stand by the Union and those institutions reared by the wis 
dom of our forefathers and cemented by their blood. We will stand by 
the Union at the expense of our lives and the desolation of our firesides. 
All we ask, then, is that our friends of the South will not mistake us ; that 
they will not subject us to misconstruction on mere collateral issues. Give 
us but an opportunity to spread on your journal the obligations we owe 
to our fathers and ourselves, to perpetuate the blessings conferred by the 
glorious Constitution they have bequeathed us. Then it shall be seen how 
we shall perform our duty, not to the South, but to the whole Union." * 

1 Congressional Globe, January 5, 1844, p. no. Stenographic reporting had not 


John Quincy Adams paid Mr. Hamlin marked attention during his 
speech, and when the latter had closed his remarks, Mr. Adams rose 
in his seat, and with a pleased smile on his face walked across the 
floor towards him, holding out his hand. With unusual cordiality of 
manner Mr. Adams grasped Mr. Hamlin s hand, and said : " Light 
dawneth in the East, sir; light dawneth ifi the East." Mr. Hamlin s 
attack on the gag-law won for him Mr. Adams s interest, and he 
always held Mr. Adams in reverence as the father of the Republican 

The battle against the twenty-first rule was continued in the House, 
and ultimately Mr. Hamlin and his friends were defeated by a small 
vote. But they had won a victory even in defeat ; Northern Demo 
crats, like Mr. Hamlin, Preston King, John P. Hale, Jacob Brinker- 
hoff, Robert Dale Owen, George Rathbun, and John.Wentworth rose 
above party affiliations when the slavery issue arose, and associated 
themselves with Whigs like Mr. Adams, Robert C. Schenck, Daniel 
Putnam King, Solomon Foot, Jacob Collamer, Caleb B. Smith, and 
others, many of whom are now remembered as among the founders 
of the party that abolished slavery. The next Congress saw Mr. 
Adams victorious. But it must be understood that the majority of 
these men were not Abolitionists in the sense the word was then 
used. They hoped slavery would cease to exist ; they saw that the 
unawakened public conscience would not yet sanction direct warfare 
on the institution itself. They realized, therefore, that it was their 
duty to resist the encroachments of the slave power. Mr. Adams 
expressed the feelings of this group of men towards the Abolitionists 
when he said in a speech that, although they were a noble-minded 
people, they were not practical. The Abolitionists were required to 
agitate and educate the conscience of the masses, and practical men 
like Mr. Adams and his followers were needed in congressmen who 
were wise in the ways of a work-a-day world, who could detect a plot 
of the slave power when in its incipient stages in the committee room, 
check it resolutely on the floor of the House, men, in short, who 
could successfully cope with a foe that could be as " bold as a roaring 
lion or as wise as a serpent." 

been introduced in Congress, as this imperfect record of Mr. Hamlin s speech 




THE debate on the "gag-law" brought Mr. Hamlin conspicuously 
before the House as a determined opponent of slavery, and yet events 
followed that tended to win for him the respect of his Southern col 
leagues, even though they did not like his views of slavery. It must 
be borne in mind that while slavery was as yet an intermittent issue, 
and did not wholly dominate legislation at Washington, it was never 
theless a sacrilege in the eyes of the slave party to denounce the in 
stitution. Hence, if a congressman publicly attacked slavery, as Mr. 
Hamlin did in one of his first speeches in the House, he prejudiced 
the Southern members against him, unless, of course, he had strong 
qualities that would compel respect. In this Congress the Southern 
men were an abler body than their Northern associates. They were 
the elite of the South, and trained to politics as a profession. The 
presence of Northern men in Congress of inferior ability and charac 
ter was due to the fact that the best minds of the North were required 
at home to develop the professions, the educational institutions, the 
material resources of the nation, to foster invention, further manufac 
turing and the building of railroads, which would unite the country, 
and for the launching of other large enterprises. This inferior type 
of men who misrepresented Northern character represented indeed a 
sycophantic pro-slavery element which fawned before the slave power, 
and intrenched itself in power with the patronage it obtained. Men 
of this kind did much to blind the eyes of the South to the real char 
acter of the Northern people. They themselves were stigmatized as 
"dough-faces" by that picturesque individual known as "the South 
ern fire-eater." The epithet was not elegant, but it was truthful, it 
was appropriate and merited. It may be needless to add that the 
honesty, sincerity, independence, and ability of the group of anti- 
slavery men with whom Mr. Hamlin was identified placed them as 
individuals in the right light before the best of their Southern col 

The breeze that John Quincy Adams s opening attack on the gag- 
law raised soon subsided, and the House returned to its regular 
routine. There were other important things for the House to con 
sider ; the business of the nation had to be transacted. Mr. Hamlin s 


business capacity had been developed by his experience in the legis 
lature of Maine. He devoted himself to his duties, and was soon 
regarded as an absolutely reliable, conscientious, and practical worker. 
In debate he was recognized as an effective speaker ; indeed, he was 
often selected to champion measures. He had the inherent editorial 
faculty of speaking to the point, and presenting his case briefly in his 
opening remarks. He never spoke for rhetorical effect, he rarely 
prepared a speech, and never revised one for publication. He was 
modest and indifferent. But his most conspicuous characteristic was 
brought out when the House was forming its estimate of the new 
members. An incident occurred that Mr. Hamlin s friends related 
to illustrate his conception of the duties a public man owed his coun 
try and constituents, and also his idea of honor. 

One McNulty was clerk of the House. He was charged with im 
proper practices, and had the effrontery to call the yeas and nays on a 
resolution ordering his dismissal. He was discharged, and Mr. Ham- 
lin was instrumental in securing the election of Major Ben B. French, 
at one time a famous politician, as McNulty s successor. For this 
service Major French was ever afterward most grateful. One day, 
full of feeling, he came to Mr. Hamlin in the House and said : 

" At last, Mr. Hamlin, I have an opportunity of repaying you for 
your kindness to me. Three squares of the District of Columbia are 
to be sold, the one for seven mills a foot, the second for five, and 
the third for three. We can secure this property quietly, and I know 
of public improvements, shortly to take place near it, which will so 
increase its value as to make our fortunes." 

"That s all very well," said Hamlin, "but if the property were to 
be sold for one mill I have no money to buy it." 

" In that case," replied French, after consideration, " I 11 tell you 
what I will do. I will raise the money, and buy a portion of the 
property in your name. When the improvements I know of are made, 
and the great increase in value comes, as it must come, you can 
sell a small portion of the land and pay me what I have advanced." 

" You are very kind," said Mr. Hamlin, fully grateful for the offer, 
" but the fact is, while there is no actual wrong in your proposition, I 
do not think that it would be right for me to use information which 
I secure as a public servant to advance my private fortune." So the 
matter was dropped. The principles implied in Mr. Hamlin s answer 
to French he lived up to all his life. The property which he might 
have bought for five mills a foot, as described, is now in the heart of 
Washington, just back of the Interior and Post-office departments, 
and readily sells for three dollars a foot. 1 

One of the first reform movements which engaged the attention of 
1 Carroll s Twelve Americans. 


this House was one that strongly interested Mr. Hamlin, because it 
touched the honor of the nation. This was a movement to keep the 
franchise pure, and was an outcome of the presidential election of 
1840. An anomalous condition of affairs prevailed which rendered 
corruption easy in the elections. The election for President was not 
held on the same day throughout the Union. In some States the bal 
lot-box was kept open for several days, to accommodate voters who 
were unable to be present on election day. In many country districts 
people went to bed even without locking their doors. Mr. Hamlin, 
for one, rarely fastened up his house in Hampden, before retiring. 
But the ballot-box stuff er, the burglar and tramp, were to work a 
change. There were signs of danger threatening the franchise, and 
practical statesmen were agreed that the elective methods in vogue 
were in need of reform. The real difficulty presented was how to 
handle the question without stirring up party feeling. Alexander 
Duncan, a Democrat, of Ohio, had the right idea of how to remedy 
the evils, but he did not go about it in the right way. He offered a 
bill in the House, making it compulsory on all the States to choose 
their presidential electors on the same day ; but he made a violent 
attack on the Whigs, and charged them with carrying Ohio in 1840 
by importing Kentuckians across the borders, after they had given 
their own State to Harrison. This angered the Whigs in the House, 
and tended to alienate strict state-rights Democrats, who were natu 
rally opposed to measures strengthening the power of the general gov 
ernment, and would thus regard the bill in the light of a bludgeon to 
be used on the heads of the Whigs for mere party effect. 

With the spirit of partisanship inflamed, and the fears of the strict 
interpreters of the Constitution aroused, the Duncan bill had poor 
prospects of success. Several times the bill was brought up in the 
House and failed to reach a vote. The debate on the measure dragged 
on for weeks. Mr. Hamlin was earnestly in favor of the bill, and it 
appears from the records that he was ultimately appointed its cham 
pion on the floor of the House. After the discussion had developed 
into an unusually acrimonious wrangle one 7 day, the bill was brought 
up, and a great effort was made to secure a vote. Mr. Hamlin took 
the floor and made a speech that illustrates his clear and concise style 
of argument. A little tact was needed to soothe the ruffled feelings 
of the disputing members. In his opening remarks, Mr. Hamlin 
quietly referred to the unfortunate partisan discussion which attended 
the introduction of the bill, and said that while he had once desired 
to make a reply to charges against his party, he had changed his mind 
and would confine himself exclusively to the bill and its merits. 

" This bill," said Mr. Hamlin, " is intended to prevent and I believe it 
will, if it has favorable action frauds that have hitherto been perpetrated 


in our elections. I have no accusations to bring against any political par 
ties ; I have no criminations or recriminations to make ; I have simply to 
say that I believe the bill will prevent frauds and preserve, as far as is 
possible, the great and fundamental principles of the elective franchise in 
their purity. If there is a principle that addresses itself with greater force 
than any other to American statesmen, it is the principle involved in this 
question. If we can by any legislative action preserve and protect the 
rights of electors, it is our duty to take such action. The question, then, 
arises, Can we adopt a measure regulating the time for holding elections ? 
Have we the constitutional right ? By reference to the fourth clause of the 
first section of the second article of the Constitution, it will be found that 
the States gave Congress the clear and undoubted right to determine the 
time when the elections shall be held. I will read the clause : 

" The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors and 
the day on which they shall give their votes, which day shall be the same 
throughout the United States. 

" There is a variety of causes and circumstances that might induce a 
State to be in favor of holding the presidential election at the same time 
as the state elections ; and other periods might be selected by other States 
for good and sufficient reasons ; but by the law now in existence all the 
States are compelled to hold their elections for presidential electors within 
a period of thirty days from the first Monday of December. Now, by 
changing the period of the elections for President, it would not affect the 
State elections. We do not ask the States to alter the manner and place 
of holding their elections, but only to fix on a particular day. Another 
objection has been offered ; that it would compel, in certain cases, two 
elections, inasmuch as some of the States elect their presidential electors 
and state officers on the same day. Having taken some pains to inform 
myself on this matter, I have ascertained that there are only two States in 
which two elections are held on one day. I am opposed to the amend 
ment of the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Elmer), because it is unne 
cessary. The bill reported by the Committee on Elections is sufficient 
without the aid of any additional regulation. The Constitution gives Con 
gress the power to prescribe the day for holding the presidential election, 
and no other power on that subject. Congress can fix on the time, but 
not on the place and manner. It has been suggested that the passage of 
this act would require a convention of the legislatures of several of the 
States to carry it into effect. This I do not believe to be the case ; but 
even if it were so, I should vote for the bill." l 

This speech brought the House to a vote. The bill was passed by 
a large majority, and sent to the Senate; but the Whigs were still in 
control of that body, and although approving the purposes of the 
measure, they laid it on the table by a strict party vote, because 
they did not desire their opponents to obtain the credit that would 
come from the passage of a bill which would in its enactment work 
1 Congressional Globe, May 15, 1844, p. 634. 


salutary reforms, and create capital for its Democratic sponsors. 
Nevertheless, the friends of the bill were not discouraged, and pre 
pared themselves to renew the fight for a pure ballot at the next 
session of Congress, when they were successful. 

When Mr. Hamlin came to Washington he heard loud complaints 
from old soldiers of the war of 1812, and also from heirs of veterans, 
over the difficulties they had in obtaining bounty lands from the gov 
ernment to which they were entitled. Mr. Hamlin s experience while 
a member of the legislature of Maine with this subject determined 
him to probe it, and try to remove the obstacles of which the vet 
erans complained. In Mr. Hamlin s opinion the government was pur 
suing a mistaken policy in withholding from the public the names of 
those who deserved the lands. The explanation furnished by the 
government authorities for this course was that the Pension Depart 
ment was infested with unscrupulous claim agents who made a busi 
ness of hunting up claimants and cheating them, often getting fully 
one half of the land involved in payment for their alleged services. 
But to a broad-minded man it was evident that while the government 
might save some claimants from dishonest agents in the end, it would 
prevent by this course many heirs from learning that they were enti 
tled to government land. Thus, between the government s over- 
caution, departmental red tape, the cunning of the claim agents, and 
the ignorance or feebleness of claimants or their heirs, many found 
themselves unable to obtain bounty land which they were morally 
certain belonged to them. 

One of the first things Mr. Hamlin did after taking his seat in the 
House was to strike at the root of this evil by offering a resolution 
calling upon the Secretary of War to furnish the House with a list 
of the names of those who were entitled to bounty lands, of those 
who had not received warrants, and also those who had obtained 
patents but had not procured warrants. This resolution aroused the 
conservative spirit of the House. Cave Johnson, of Tennessee, was 
a good example of the honest but narrow class of congressmen who 
instinctively clung to precedent and feared departure from beaten 
tracks. Mr. Johnson opposed Mr. Hamlin s resolution on the grounds 
that the publication of names of those deserving bounty lands would 
not benefit the widows and orphans, but speculators and agents. 
William P. Thomasson, 1 of Kentucky, supported Mr. Johnson, and 
told the House that he himself had called at the War Department to 
obtain information about a claim, and that it was refused, though he 
gave the name of the claimant ; that Mr. Johnson had informed him 
that this was the practice of the department, because making public 

1 Thomasson was one of the few Southern anti-slavery members of Congress. 
He became a Republican, and was one of Mr. Hamlin s personal friends. 


information about the claims would help the agents and speculators, 
who were constantly on watch for their chance to prey on applicants 
for bounties. For these reasons Mr. Thomasson said he was unwill 
ing to depart from the government s custom. 

Mr. Hamlin replied by showing that the fact that Mr. Thomasson, 
a member of the House, could not obtain information at the War 
Department about a just claim for bounty lands, that he could not 
learn from the government s books the names of the people he knew 
to be interested in land claims, was a convincing reason in itself why 
the House should adopt the resolution he, Mr. Hamlin, had offered. 
Addressing himself to Mr. Johnson, Mr. Hamlin asked, if the gov 
ernment expressed a willingness through its laws to reward those who 
had imperiled their lives for it, was it proper to withhold evidence 
that would show to whom reward was due ? " Would the gentle 
man from Tennessee," Mr. Hamlin continued, " stand like a miser 
over his gold, and refuse the relief offered ? . . . But is it to be the 
policy of this government to say to meritorious citizens, We will give 
you this bounty land, and the same moment turn and say in the 
same breath, * We will withhold from you the very information which 
will enable you to enjoy the benefits we offer ? Is this not to keep 
the word of promise to the ear and break it to our hope " ? 1 

John P. Hale supported Mr. Hamlin s resolution, and asserted that 
the publication of the information desired would tend to defeat the 
speculators. Mr. Hopkins, of Virginia, strengthened the argument in 
favor of the resolution by pointing out that concealment alone would 
aid unscrupulous agents in their designs on worthy land claimants. 
In fact, under the present system they had managed to bribe clerks 
to give them data that placed claimants in their hands. The House 
came to the opinion that Mr. Hamlin was right, and that it was better 
to transact public business in the open light. The resolution was 
passed by a vote of two to one, and Mr. Hamlin soon enjoyed the 
satisfaction of seeing many a veteran of 1812 rewarded for his ser 
vices. It may be added, without anticipating, that this was the begin 
ning of a long service to the country s old soldiers which earned Mr. 
Hamlin the lasting gratitude of many a home. 

While Mr. Hamlin was endeavoring to work a reform in the pen 
sion office, he was also lending his aid to the movement to obtain 
cheaper postage. During the first few days of his membership in the 
House, he introduced a petition praying for lower postal rates, and 
then joined with prominent members of the House in an effort to 
pass a bill to accomplish the desired reform. This was one of the 
many topics which Mr. Hamlin and his "mess" associates considered, 
and one outcome of their deliberations was a bill that was offered 
1 Congressional Globe, December 27, 1843, P- 7& 


by Preston King making uniform reduction in the cost of transport 
ing mail. The public was strongly in favor of the reform. In a 
speech by Charles H. Carroll, of New York, a circumstance was 
brought out that in these days seems amazing. Mr. Carroll said that 
it cost one cent and three quarters more to transport a letter from 
Geneva, N. Y., to New York city, than it did to transport a barrel of 
flour between the same places. The timidity and conservatism of 
the government were the real obstacles to the success of this reform 
movement. It was feared that a reduction in postage rates would 
make the Post-office Department a burden to the government. A 
general understanding was arrived at in the House, that action should 
be deferred until the petition in circulation throughout the country 
had been laid before the House. 

In the mean time the desire for postal reform increased among the 
progressive people of the country, and when Congress reconvened a 
determined effort was made to reduce the postal rates from an exces 
sive average of fifteen and one half cents to a uniform rate of five 
cents a letter ; at the same time it was planned to make an attempt 
to abolish the franking privilege, which had become a great abuse. 
Opposition to the reform was strong, and was chiefly based on the plea 
that a sweeping reduction of postage rates would decrease the reve 
nues of the Post-office Department to so low a figure that the service 
would become a burden on the national treasury. A reading of 
the debates on this question discloses the different points of view the 
Northern and Southern congressmen held on economic questions. 
In this instance, the Southern members were influenced to a consider 
able extent by their ideas of state rights, which seemed sometimes to 
act on them with the force of a religion, and to be the conscious or 
unconscious motive of their acts. Sectional considerations also oper 
ated among them. Mr. Hamlin favored the bill, and he made several 
speeches in which he embodied the Northern argument in favor of it. 1 
The main idea was that as cheap postage had increased the business 
of the Post-office Department in England, and tended to spread intelli 
gence throughout the masses, the same measures ought to bring about 
the same results in the United States. As a simpler illustration he 
showed that the reduction of postal rates, like the reduction of railroad 
and steamboat fares, would also increase the business and revenue of 
the Post-office Department. 

These views, however, were not accepted by the Southern members 
as a rule. Howell Cobb feared that the contemplated reduction was 
too radical, and, moreover, would lodge too much power in the Post- 
office Department. William L. Yancey supported Mr. Cobb s argu 
ment, and claimed that only the large cities favored the reform. It 
1 Principal speech, February 24, 1845, Congressional Globe, p. 339. 


was his belief that this would be taxing the many for the benefit of 
the few. Mr. Hopkins, of Virginia, asserted that the government 
could never compete with the private expresses that now transacted 
a large amount of the postal business. But the reductio ad absurdum 
was a speech by William W. Payne. In reply to Mr. Hamlin he said 
that the postal bill was a New York and Jiew England measure, and 
that the letter writers who paid the cost of postage were merchants, 
business men, love-sick swains, and city belles. They should be 
made to pay it. 

But without going into the subject further, it may be added that 
although the five-cent bill passed the Senate, it did not triumph in 
the House. An amendment was added establishing five cents as 
the rate for letters under 300 miles, and ten cents over that dis 
tance. The progressive and unprogressive elements in the House 
divided on this bill almost identically as they did on the slavery ques 
tion. Eighty-five members, including Mr. Hamlin, John P. Hale, 
Preston King, Jacob Collamer, Daniel Putnam King, Hamilton Fish, 
Caleb B. Smith, Robert C. Schenck, Joshua R. Giddings, George 
Rathbun, Freeman H. Morse, Alexander Ramsay, and others who 
generally affiliated on progressive matters voted against this amend 
ment ; but no voted for it, and the Senate concurred on the princi 
ple that "half a loaf was better than no bread." The franking privi 
lege remained unchanged. The beginning of postal reform has thus 
been briefly described in order to show Mr. Hamlin s interest in it. 
He accomplished more work in the committee room than in debate. 
He retained his interest in this reform movement when he entered 
the Senate, and when more important results were attained. From 
the first he opposed the franking privilege. But this is anticipating, 
and the narrative returns to the chronological order of events be 
ginning with the annexation of Texas. 



MR. HAMLIN accepted an invitation to join President Tyler and a 
party in a trip down the Potomac River, on the man-of-war Princeton, 
of the United States Navy, on February 28, 1844, when a new gun 
that had been added to the Princeton s armament was to be tested. 
As he was about to proceed to the ship, Mr. Hamlin unexpectedly 
found that his presence was required in the House, and to his regret 
he was compelled to forego what he had expected would be a very 
pleasant outing. But it proved to be a day of tragic and portentous 
significance for the entire nation. The gun exploded, killed Mr. 
Upshur, the Secretary of State, Mr. Gilmer, the Secretary of the 
Navy, and nine others, and also wounded nine sailors. It happened 
that President Tyler had stepped into the cabin just before the gun 
was fired, and so escaped injury. The death of Mr. Upshur had a 
momentous effect on this administration. Mr. Tyler had schemed 
to annex Texas in order to give lustre to his administration, and also 
in the hope that he would be enabled to force the Democratic party 
to nominate him for President. To this end Mr. Tyler had nego 
tiated a treaty with Texas, looking to the annexation of the young 
republic with the Union, when Mr. Upshur s tragic death interrupted 
the proceedings. The Democratic party took the practical view of 
the situation, and favored the annexation of Texas ; the Whigs op 
posed the project on the ground that it might involve the United 
States in a war with Mexico. Like an inspiration, the thought came 
to Henry A. Wise that the master-hand of John C. Calhoun could 
guide the Democratic party to success in the emergency now pre 
sented, and he induced Mr. Tyler, against his personal preference, to 
make Mr. Calhoun the successor to Mr. Upshur. Here was a young 
nation on our borders asking to be taken into our Union as a sister 
State, and increase our domain and power. The fact was that Texas 
was able to separate itself from Mexico, and maintain itself as an 
independent community by its own efforts. Now, if the United States 
did not accept its offer, there was manifest danger that Texas might 
remain an isolated power, and become a prey for adventurous Euro 
pean governments, a danger that was well exemplified only twenty 
years afterwards, when Louis Napoleon attempted to seat Maximilian 
in Mexico on a throne propped up by bayonets. 


Mr. Calhoun emerged from the retirement into which Jackson had 
driven him, and became the Secretary of State. He favored the 
annexation of Texas, and, moreover, his comprehensive mind grasped 
the great possibilities of party success in a joint Northern and South 
ern movement to acquire more land for the Union. The Texas ques 
tion also suggested the advisability of adjusting the boundary line of 
Oregon with Great Britain. Thus, before the National Democratic 
Convention met at Baltimore, in May, Mr. Calhoun had already pro 
vided it with winning issues. The proposal to increase the nation s 
territory fired the Democratic party with zeal and enthusiasm ; but it 
must be added that Mr. Calhoun had an ulterior motive in raising 
these issues besides seeking party success. Mr. Van Buren and Mr. 
Clay had both written letters opposing the annexation of Texas. 
Mr. Calhoun, believing that Mr. Van Buren had robbed him of the 
presidency by poisoning Jackson s mind against him, was naturally 
desirous of avenging himself upon him. JMr. Calhoun seized on 
Mr. Van Buren s opposition to the annexation of Texas as a means 
of defeating his aspirations for renomination. Mr. Calhoun welded 
/ the slave States into a compact body against Mr. Van Buren, and 
accomplished his defeat in the convention by enforcing the two 
thirds rule. When a deadlock seemed imminent, James K, Polk was 
brought forward as a compromise candidate, and nominated amidst 
enthusiasm. Silas Wright was named for Vice-President, but de 
clined, and in five minutes sent a dispatch to Baltimore to that effect. 1 
He was Mr. Van Buren s confidential friend. George M. Dallas, of 
Pennsylvania, was substituted. The Whigs having nominated Mr. 
Clay and Theodore Frelinghuysen as their leaders, this session of 
Congress closed amidst preparations for one of the most important 
and exciting presidential elections in the history of the country. 

Mr. Hamlin returned to Maine after the adjournment of Congress, 
and was renominated for another term. Although he preferred Mr. 
Van Buren, he accepted Folk s nomination, and supported him loy 
ally. Mr. Hamlin was a strong party man, and believed that the 
right would prevail in the end. No man had yet arrived who pos 
sessed the power of prophecy or divination; the truth was but 
half suspected, that Mr. Polk had been secretly selected by the 
slave power weeks before the convention nominated him. Mr. Polk 
was a man of irreproachable private character, and his candidacy 
was received by his party with great favor, except among Mr. Van 
Buren s intimate friends, although Mr. Wright, for the sake of the 
party, waived his own feelings, and became the Democratic candidate 

1 The telegraph had just been established, and the convention did not know 
whether to believe Wright s dispatch of declination. A committee was sent to 
Washington to ascertain the truth. 


for governor of New York. It was his influence that decided the 
result of the campaign, for New York elected Mr. Polk. Mr. Clay 
soon perceived that the Democratic party was making great progress 
with the slogan, " Annex Texas ; 54 40 or fight." The South would 
naturally look with favor on a plan to increase its slave territory, and 
as the feeling against Great Britain, on account of the war of 1812, 
had not yet died out, the cry, " 54 40 or fight," roused a spirit of 
enthusiasm that nearly threatened to bring on another war with that 
nation. To his great mortification, Mr. Clay found himself for the 
first time on the defensive in a political campaign. To stem the turn 
ing of the tide, Mr. Clay wrote a letter denying that he was opposed 
to the annexation of Texas, and adding that he would be glad to have 
Texas brought into the Union under honorable conditions. This 
so-called Alabama letter was Mr. Clay s death warrant. It drove a 
sufficient number of anti-slavery Whigs of New York into the ranks 
of the Abolition party to give that State to Mr. Polk. It weakened 
Mr. Clay even in Kentucky. In the gubernatorial election in Ken 
tucky that occurred in the month of August, William O. Butler, the 
Democratic candidate, cut down the Whig majority from 28,000 votes 
to less than 5000. This reduction of strength in Mr. Clay s own 
home created consternation among his friends and proportionate 
jubilation among the Democrats. Before this, Mr. Hamlin was but 
little known outside of Maine as a campaign speaker. After the 
Kentucky election, Mr. Hamlin made a speech that attracted con 
siderable attention to him beyond the borders of his own State. In 
characterizing Mr. Clay s attitude towards Texas, which was called 
"facing two ways," Mr. Hamlin said that Clay, after the Kentucky 
election, reminded him of the old woman who went to sleep on the 
highway, to wake up and find that her petticoats had been cut off 
about her knees. She lamented : 

" If this be I as I hope it be, 

I have a little dog at home and he knows me. 
If it be I he will wag his little tail ; 
If it be not I he will loudly bark and loudly wail.* 
Forth went the little woman all in the dark, 
Up jumped the little dog and began to bark. 
Up jumped the little woman and began to cry, 
Lawk a mercy on us, this is none of I. 

"Kentucky, my friends," observed Mr. Hamlin, "does not know 
her old woman." Campaign oratory, it need not be added, was then 
noted for vigor, sarcasm, and its personal nature. This rude shaft 
proved exceedingly effective and was widely used as an apt, if homely, 
illustration of Mr. Clay s unfortunate predicament. 1 

1 Mr. Hamlin made his first speech in New York city in this campaign. He 
addressed a large audience at Castle Garden. 


In the Maine election, the total poll was over 90,000 votes, a gain 
of more than 30,000 over the previous year, which indicated the great 
interest the campaign commanded in the Pine Tree State. The 
Democrats reflected Governor Anderson, a popular and able man, 
by 10,000 majority. Mr. Hamlin was reflected by a large majority 
over Abraham Sanborn, a Whig of ability as a campaign orator and 
a leading lawyer of Bangor. For several weeks after the presidential 
election in November the result was not generally known, owing to 
the delay of getting the returns from New York, and the lack of 
facilities for spreading the news. Democrats and Whigs alike passed 
through agonies of uncertainties. Mr. Hamlin awaited the result at 
his home in Hampden. One day a group of Democrats gathered 
before the little village post-office to wait for the news, when a 
horseman was seen in the dim distance on the old Boston highway, 
galloping towards Hampden like mad. In his hand he held a long 
shining thing, and there was curious speculation as to what it was 
and what the man was doing. When he came a little nearer he lifted 
the shining object to his mouth ; it was a speaking-trumpet, and 
the impatient Democrats were transported with almost uncontainable 
joy when they heard these words: "Polk elected; New York goes 
for him by 5000 majority." In a cloud of dust the jubilant and 
smiling messenger dashed on to carry the glad tidings of Folk s elec 
tion to Bangor. In this way the news of Folk s victory was spread 
throughout Maine. Polk had a popular majority of about a quarter 
of a million of votes and an emphatic majority in the electoral col 
lege. The significance of the election was that the people favored 
the annexation of Texas and the reoccupation of Oregon. 

An incident that followed the election of Polk indicates Mr. Ham- 
lin s position as a leader in the House. Shortly before the adjourn 
ment of Congress some members of the House asked him to be a 
candidate for speaker at the next session, when a new House would 
come into existence. He said nothing about this, however, at the 
time to his colleagues from Maine. But after the presidential elec 
tion he received a letter from Major French, clerk of the House, 
who wrote that, judging from what the incoming members of the 
next House were saying, Mr. Hamlin stood as good a chance as any 
body to succeed to the speaker s chair. Mr. Hamlin, however, made 
no effort, so far as is known, to become speaker. He never men 
tioned the affair to his family. All he did that is a matter of 
record was to lay the facts in a letter before Robert P. Dunlap, 
who had been governor of Maine, and was then in the House and 
a personal friend. In this letter he expressed no desire for the 
speaker s chair, but asked Mr. Dunlap s opinion. Oldtime politicians 
of Maine remembered that Mr. Hamlin s name was freely used in 


connection with the speakership, which appears to have been the 
beginning and the end of the affair. His name was not presented. 
The tone of his letter to Governor Dunlap indicated that he had 
doubts whether it would be worth while to make a contest. He 
knew that the slave party was in control, and would probably choose 
a man of its own. This was the case. But the incident was a com 
pliment worth noting. 

Congress reconvened in another month, and the Democratic mem 
bers returned to Washington rejoicing over the brilliant victory their 
party had achieved. But when the Texas affair began rapidly to 
develop its real aspect, the happiness of the anti-slavery Democrats 
changed to apprehension. The fact was the North had only dimly 
realized the danger to free institutions involved in the admission of 
Texas into the Union. The North had, indeed, good reasons for 
believing that a part, if not half, of Texas would be free. Up to this 
time it had been a part of the unwritten Constitution of the United 
States to preserve the balance between the free and slave States of 
the Union by admitting new States in pairs, one free, the other 
slave. Texas had enough land for five States, and if the anti-slavery 
voters of the North had grasped the purpose of the slave power to 
seize that immense territory for slavery, Mr. Polk would never have 
been elected President. In the presidential campaign there were de 
velopments that disturbed far-seeing men ; a frenzy seemed to pos 
sess the slave party in several Southern States. The cry of " Texas 
with or without the Union " was often heard. Declarations of this 
kind were regarded by the great masses of loyal people in all parts 
of the country as utterances of superheated, irresponsible fire-eaters. 
This belief had some truth for its foundation, and yet the excited 
condition of the South over the issue of annexation was the result 
of a systematic agitation which was begun in order to create a demand 
in the South for the admission of Texas into the Union as a slave 

When Mr. Calhoun became secretary of state he perceived that 
the plans of the slave power could not succeed without the aid of 
Southern Whigs. Personally, Mr. Calhoun was a pure and honor 
able man, but his failure to reach the presidency had embittered him 
probably more than he realized. He believed in slavery as a patri 
archal institution ; he defended it with the intensity of a fanatic, 
and saw its opponents with a distorted vision. Just prior to Mr. 
Calhoun s entrance into President Tyler s Cabinet, some Abolitionists 
conceived a plan to purchase the slaves of Texas and set them free. 
They visited London in the hope of inducing the English govern 
ment to help them raise the money needed, $10,000,000. It had 
been England s policy to encourage emancipation, since she had freed 


the last of her slaves ten years before this ; but in this instance Great 
Britain could not act without incurring the danger of bringing on a 
war with the United States and Texas too. Assistance was refused 
the Abolitionists, and the British government, through Lord Aber 
deen, informed Secretary Upshur, ten days before the latter s tragic 
death, that while it was England s policy t encourage emancipation 
throughout the world, it would neither secretly nor openly resort to 
any measure that would tend to disturb the domestic tranquillity of 
the slaveholding States. This was an explicit and honorable declara 
tion, and yet Mr. Calhoun and his cooperators saw in it only a revela 
tion of a Machiavelian policy, an intention on England s part to 
thwart the annexation of Texas. When Mr. Calhoun became secre 
tary of state he made effective use of the Abolition incident to elect 
Mr. Polk and to intensify Southern sentiment in favor of annexation, 
by charging England with hostility to the slaveholding policy of the 
country. Thus Mr. Calhoun stirred Southern hatred of the aboli 
tionist, and national dislike for the English government. In a letter 
of instructions to William R. King, the American minister to France, 
Mr. Calhoun said that England regarded the defeat of annexation 
"as indispensable to the abolition of slavery in Texas," that "Eng 
land was too sagacious not to see what a fatal blow abolition in Texas 
would give to slavery in the United States," and finally, that the 
effect of the abolition of slavery " to this continent would be calami 
tous beyond description." 

Mr. Calhoun and his faction continued to harp on these themes 
even after the election of Mr. Polk, and their object is easy to under 
stand. When Congress resumed its session, and the purpose of the 
slave power to grab all of Texas was revealed, there were signs of a 
defection of the anti-slavery Democrats from their party. Mr. Ham- 
lin and his associates were justly indignant, and vehemently in private 
and in public denounced their Southern party colleagues for their 
practical breach of faith and abandonment of custom. The anger of 
the Northern anti-slavery men in Congress was after all only an episode 
in the eyes of the crafty slave power. The next thing to do was to 
win over the men needed, and to do that the Calhoun party kept 
Southern excitement up to the fever pitch as long as they could, in 
hopes the requisite number of Southern Whigs would yield under the 
pressure of public sentiment, and deliver Texas over to slavery. The 
final step Mr. Calhoun arranged was to rush Texas into the Union by 
forcing through Congress joint resolutions framed by his adroit brain. 
Senator Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, was chosen to manage the 
resolutions. On December 12, Charles J. Ingersoll, of Pennsylvania, 
chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations and a Northern 
man with Southern principles, introduced the resolutions into the 


House, and the battle was begun that closed two decades after 

The measure presented by Mr. Ingersoll only " cleared the deck for 
action." In general terms it provided for the admission of Texas into 
the Union, the appointment of a commission to investigate questions 
that needed settlement, and other details which do not require reca 
pitulation. But not one word was said about slavery ; no intimation 
was given. of the slave power s intention to make five States out of 
T^exas in order that they could send ten senators and at least twice 
as many representatives to Congress in the interests of the slave oli 
garchy. The debate that opened a few days later was not an oratorical 
contest of note, but an exposition of the diametrically opposite views 
the North and the South held on slavery, and another proof that 
there could no longer be any compromise on that issue, because it had 
become a political factor which was to be settled only in the last court, 
the field of war. But prophets had not yet arrived who were to 
be believed in their day, and the battle over Texas was regarded as 
a great political contest, although the nation s degradation was keenly 
felt at the North, and fears for the country s future aroused over the 
display of the slave party s power and arrogance. 

In another respect the debate was interesting and important as an 
exposition of the Southern belief in slavery as a useful and beneficent 
institution, and also that the North made war on the South through 
tariffs, laws, and bounties. As the slave party controlled the situa 
tion far more surely than its opponents knew, the leaders did not favor 
the making of speeches that would tend to inflame the Northern con 
gressmen ; but they could not hold some of their own number in 
check, and there were a few outbursts of more than ordinary interest 
in the course of the debate. William L. Yancey, of Alabama, was 
one of the most eloquent and extreme representatives in the House 
of the selfish, sectional spirit of the slave party. He was a man of 
great ability, though of a vindictive nature. He hated the anti-slavery 
men, and was not unwilling to stoop to the tactics of the demagogue 
to "fire the Southern heart" against them. Mr. Yancey was one of 
the first to lead off in the debate on Texas, and his speech is one of 
peculiar interest, because he made a base attack on New England, to 
which Mr. Hamlin replied, and an onslaught on Thomas L. Clingman, 
a Whig, of North Carolina, who was opposed to annexation, which 
brought on a duel. W T ith extreme Southern men like Mr. Yancey 
it was a favorite practice to slur New England as a centre of dis 
union on account of the Hartford convention and the ideas of the 
Abolitionists, for both of which New England could not be held 
responsible. Two brief extracts from Yancey s speech will suffice to 
illustrate. "Looking at New England," said he, "I see her plains 


made fertile and her villages springing up by the bounties wrung 
from the South." " Men are now there," he continued, " who, forget 
ful of their fathers, are seeking to weaken the bonds of the Union, 
and are content to live on the bounty wrung from the sweat of 
Southern brows." But of more importance was Mr. Yancey s decla 
ration, bold and unqualified, that "the slaveholding States were losing 
their relative strength in the representative branch of the govern 
ment," that " they had compromised away all possibility of retaining 
an equality in the Senate by the fatal Missouri Compromise," and 
finally, that " the highest considerations of individual, sectional, and 
national interests urged the South on to annexation." 

Several other speeches were made following the lead of Mr. Yan 
cey s remarks, although not so severe in their reflections on New 
England. Isaac E. Holmes, of South Carolina, a man of generous 
disposition and honorable nature, but who was naturally imbued 
with the Southern idea of New England, claimed that that section 
opposed annexation for purely commercial reasons, and in further 
allusion to the anti-slavery movement said that a tremendous whirl 
wind was gathering in blackness and fury to drink up all that was 
estimable in Southern institutions. "Men," he continued, "have 
talked of dividing this country in two parts, from one of which slavery 
is to be excluded. A Southerner who would agree to this a South 
erner who would manacle and fetter the energies of his children must 
be either a knave or a fool. Admit Texas and give us but two slave 
States, what will our condition be ? With our exhausted soil, a dense 
population which without a field for industry and enterprise must 
grow idle, let gentlemen figure the consequences for themselves." 

It is not necessary to pursue this line of Southern argument fur 
ther. Anti-slavery men met and refuted it when it was advance .-. 
The development of the manufacturing interests of the South subse 
quent to 1865 completely upset this theory. But at this time something 
else claimed the attention of the anti-slavery men in Congress, and 
that was the avowal of the extreme pro-slavery leaders that they would 
not restrict their ambitions for extending slavery with the annexation 
of Texas. Another thing was becoming clearer, and that was the 
fact that the slave party was growing more confident with the pro 
gress of the debate of its ability to force the joint resolutions through 
the House. There were reports that the slave leaders had been 
promising the patronage of the incoming administration to unscru 
pulous and dough-face Northern Democrats, which were unhappily 
verified. Realizing the tremendous efforts the slave party was mak 
ing to push the joint resolutions through Congress, and that the 
chances of success were favorable, and having a clear idea of the prac 
tical difficulties before the anti-slavery men, Mr. Hamlin resolved to 


present a dispassionate view of the annexation issue in the hope, faint 
though it was, that the South might yet be brought to see that a 
compromise ought to be effected which would satisfy the North. 
On January 23, 1845, ne made a speech on Texas that was concilia 
tory in tone, though firm in its denunciation of slavery. Mr. Hamlin 
was then thirty-four years old. This speech was inadequately reported 
in the "Congressional Record," the eulogy on New -England was 
even omitted entirely. His poetic tribute to New England was saved 
by the newspaper correspondents, who sent it out over the country. 
The speech was in part as follows : 

" We have a country stretching from the frozen regions of the North to 
the tropical climate of the South. We have a seacoast extending from the 
rocky shores of New England, washed by the Atlantic, to our western bound 
ary, bathed by the peaceful waters of the Pacific, vast in extent, and embra 
cing in its circuit almost every climate and almost every industrial pursuit 
known to the world. It must occur to every thinking mind that a govern 
ment stretching its powers over such a vast domain must be one of com 
promise. On compromise our Republican form of government was based. 
Viewing the question of the annexation of Texas in such a light, let us 
come to the consideration of it with feelings and purposes equal to its im 
portance. Gentlemen who have preceded me in this debate have so ably 
discussed the constitutional question involved that I shall not enter upon 
it. I shall content myself with simply saying on this point . . . that I 
will give my sanction to the annexation of Texas upon conditions and 
restrictions which will make it what I claim it to be, a national question. 
Moreover, I am for immediate annexation, although I had indulged the 
hope that the consummation of this measure would have been left to the 
coming administration, which will have, as I trust and believe it will, the 
confidence of the people. The present administration possesses the respect 
and confidence of no party and no man. . . . 

" I first propose to show that this question has not been presented to the 
House in a national aspect, and I shall then proceed to show in what man 
ner it ought to be presented. . . . 

" I regret that this great and important national question has been 
dragged down, down, down from its proper sphere to a wretched, con 
temptible, and groveling position. Let us trace the development of this 
question from its first appearance in this hall to its present aspect. I 
know that the acquisition of Texas has been the desideratum of several 
administrations for national purposes, purposes which I approve. But 
what is the origin of the measure of the annexation of a foreign power to 
this Union? A mere rumor reported in a letter . . . that the British 
government designed to abolish slavery in the republic of Texas. . . . This 
was the basis on which the authorities of Texas were invited to open nego 
tiations with this country. Yes, an idle rumor had force enough to engage 
the attention of our government. 

" This is an attempt to strengthen the slave power. Let us examine the 


correspondence of the Tyler administration on this subject, which shows 
that the object of annexing Texas is to uphold and extend slavery, and the 
alleged design of the British government to abolish slavery in Texas has 
been brought to bear upon the annexation issue. I quote from Mr. Cal- 
houn s elaborate argument defending slavery and urging the annexation of 
Texas as a means of maintaining the institution. . . . 

" What ! is it true that the slave institution in this country is the great 
upholder of the power in this Republic ? Is it the means of spreading 
civilization over the world ? ... If we should return home and tell our 
constituents that we voted for annexation on such principles and with such 
a name, we should be pronounced recreant to our duty, traitors to our 
country. I deny Mr. Calhoun s reasonings and conclusions. If the gov 
ernment should extend its domain for such as he sets forth, it would give 
national power, importance, and dignity to a purely local affair. 

" The general government has no right to interfere with slavery. But if 
the government can extend the institution for an alleged beneficial purpose, 
it can restrict it. ... This is an attempt to make a national question of a 
purely state issue, and those who are endeavoring to give it a national 
character would be swift indeed to prevent Congress from taking a restric 
tive action. The question of annexation is fully and clearly national, not 
one where the government should act for a cause over which it. has no 
right to interfere. ... I myself am in favor of the abstract proposition of 
annexation, and I am willing to leave the details for the future if they 
could be fairly settled. . . . That the people decided in favor of annexa 
tion in the last election, I believe ; that they prescribed and settled the 
details, I do not believe. ... In my State we took the ground that 
recourse must be had to compromise, but we concluded that it would be 
the means of admitting more free States than slave States. I refer you 
also to the resolutions adopted by the legislature of New Hampshire I 
also refer you to the bill introduced into the Senate by Mr. Hayward, the 
senator from North Carolina, a bill which speaks much for his heart, but 
more for his head. 

" Of slavery I do not intend to speak. The eloquent Pinckney spoke for 
me when he declared that slavery s footsteps were marked with blight 
wherever it had touched the earth ; but again I say, I am willing to enter 
into compromise, because I believe that annexation is of national impor 
tance. It will promote Northern commerce, agriculture, and industrial 
pursuits ; it will also benefit the South in giving the monopoly of the cotton- 
growing industry for the supply of foreign markets. ... I am desirous 
that a portion of this territory should be left free for the industry of North 
ern people. When they shall have established themselves, leveled the for 
ests, cultivated the earth, built up their industries, I would leave it to them 
whether they would admit slavery. There would be no fear of that. 

" I recall the jeers and taunts that have been thrown out in the progress 
of this debate, and when I heard them, my heart impelled me to hurl them 
back. Reflection, however, has softened my indignation. It does not 
become public men in discussing great national questions to descend to 


taunts and to provoke sectional feelings and prejudices. If there are any 
here who can find consolation in this kind of debate, they are welcome to 
it. I protest against the reproaches that have been heaped upon the 
North. If the North has acted wickedly, I offer for her no apologies 
that wickedness was not the crime of her people; it belonged to her politi 
cians alone. . . . The hardy sons of the ice-bound regions of New Eng 
land have poured out their blood without stint to protect the shores of the 
South, and to avenge her wrongs. Their bones are even now bleaching 
beneath the sun on many a Southern hill ; and the monuments of their 
brave devotion may still be traced wherever their country s flag has floated 
on the battlefield or in the breeze, upon the lakes, the ocean, and the land. 

" New England s dead ! New England s dead ! 

On every field they lie, 
On every field of strife made red 

With bloody victory. 
Their bones are on our Northern hills, 

And on the Southern plain; 
By brooks and river, mount and rills, 

And in the sounding main. 

" I glory in New England and New England s institutions. There she 
stands with her free schools and her free labor, her fearless enterprise, 
her indomitable energy ! With her rocky hills, her torrent streams, her 
green valleys, her heavenward-pointed spires, there she stands a moral 
monument around which the gratitude of her country binds the wreath of 
fame, while protected freedom shall repose forever at its base. 

"While I thus glory in New England, however, I meet not my Southern 
brethren with any brand of discord, but with the olive branch of peace. I 
meet them in the spirit of harmony ; still, I desire above other considera 
tions to meet them on even ground, a ground alike respectful to the 
North and the South, and I invoke them to perform this great national 
act, the annexation of Texas that Southern and Northern hearts may 
rejoice to behold the stars and stripes floating together over the rich and 
fertile Texan plains. I ask, will not the gentlemen of the South meet us 
here ? Will they not rescue this measure alike from danger and reproach 
and put it in a form which will gratify us all ? I entreat them to look 
at the question in all the lights of cool reflection before they finally reject 
the compromise which, while it secures them an inestimable benefit, does 
equal justice to all sections and all interests of the Union." 

The resolutions to annex Texas were now to be read for the last 
time before a vote was taken, when Stephen A. Douglas, whose presi 
dential ambition had not then eaten away his sagacity, offered an amend 
ment providing that the States to be formed out of Texas be admitted 
to the Union with or without slavery as their people should desire. 
This was rejected by a majority of only eleven votes. Mr. Hamlin 
promptly presented another amendment providing that the terms on 
which the new States should be admitted to the Union should be de- 


termined by Congress at the time of admission and in accordance with 
the Constitution. But this was rej ected, and so were other amendments 
presented or framed to secure some recognition of the anti-slavery sen 
timent of the North. The result of all these efforts was to secure the 
adoption of an amendment offered by Stephen A. Douglas providing 
that there should be no slavery in any territory of the States to be 
formed out of Texas that laid north of the Missouri Compromise line. 
This was practically a reaffirmation of the Missouri Compromise. 
The only honorable course left for all members of the House who 
favored annexation, but who were opposed to it as a means of extend 
ing slavery, was to vote against the joint resolutions. The resolutions 
were passed by a vote of 120 to 98. An analysis of the vote shows 
that nearly thirty Northern Democrats braved the slave power on this 
occasion and that some eight Southern Whigs yielded to it. A few 
changes of votes would obviously have defeated the joint resolutions 
and thus compelled the framing of a fairer measure. Among the 
Democrats who put their country before their party in this struggle 
were : Preston King, George Rathbun, J. E. Cary, Joseph H. Ander 
son, Charles S. Benton, Amasa Dana, Richard D. Davis, Byram Green, 
Horace Wheaton, Orville Robinson, David L. Seymour, Lemuel B. 
Stetson, and S. M. Purdy, all of New York ; Edward S. Hamlin and 
Jacob Brinkerhoff, of Ohio; John P. Hale and John R. Reding, of 
New Hampshire; George S. Catlin and John Stewart, of Connecticut ; 
Joshua Herrick, Robert P. Dunlap, and Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine; 
Henry Williams, of Massachusetts ; Paul Dillingham, Jr., of Vermont, 
and James B. Hunt and Robert McClelland, of Michigan. Prominent 
among the Whigs who were actuated by high moral reasons rather 
than political were John Quincy Adams, Daniel Putnam King, Joshua 
R. Giddings, Robert C. Schenck, Samuel F. Vinton, Washington 
Hunt, Hamilton Fish, Caleb B. Smith, Freeman H. Morse and Luther 
Severance, of Maine, Solomon Foot, and Jacob Collamer. The old 
proverb, " Politics makes strange bedfellows," is illustrated in finding 
Thomas L. Clingman in company with these Whigs, a man whose 
principles and friendship for Clay held him against the annexation of 
Texas, but whose attachment to his State led him to favor disunion in 
1860. In this portentous division on the slave issue, it is significant 
to find Alexander H. Stephens as the leader of the small handful of 
Whigs who deserted their party to serve the interests of the slave 
power. John B. Ashe, Milton Brown, James H. Payton and William 
T. Senter, of Tennessee, A. H. Chappell, of Georgia, and James 
Dellet, of Alabama, were the other Whigs who followed the lead of 
the coming Vice-President of the Confederacy in this issue. They 
worked hand in hand with Democrats who became conspicuous dis- 
unionists, Howell Cobb, Jacob Thompson, John Slidell, William L. 


Yancey, Thomas L. Seymour, and R. Barnwell Rhett. The strength 
of the slave party is better appreciated when the fact is recorded 
that others who supported this measure were John W. Davis, of In 
diana, who was speaker of the next House ; Charles J. Ingersoll, of 
Pennsylvania, an influential member of Northern birth and Southern 
principles ; Aaron V. Brown, Mr. Folk s law partner and postmaster- 
general under Buchanan ; Cave Johnson, who held the same office 
under Polk ; Stephen A. Douglas, whose presidential aspirations split 
the Democratic party in 1860, and Andrew Johnson, who was then a 
consistent defender of slavery. 

The last chapter in the story of the joint resolutions of annexation 
is of personal interest. In the Senate there was a small group of 
Democrats who opposed the House resolutions for fear that the an 
nexation of Texas, accomplished by their adoption, would bring on 
a war with Mexico. Thomas H. Benton was the leader of these men, 
and he succeeded in inducing the Senate to pass an amendment to the 
House bill providing for the annexation of Texas by negotiation with 
Mexico. President-elect Polk, who was now in Washington in confer 
ence with President Tyler in regard to the annexation of Texas, gave 
his assurance to several senators, that if Colonel Benton s amendment 
was passed by Congress, he would act within its lines and appoint a 
commission, composed of men of the highest character, to acquire 
Texas on terms honorable to the United States and satisfactory to 
Mexico. The Senate then rejected the House joint resolutions and 
passed Colonel Benton s amendment. This measure was next intro 
duced into the House, and Mr. Hamlin and all the anti-slavery Demo 
crats except three or four, trusting in Mr. Folk s assurances, voted for 
the Senate amendment, which was carried by a majority of more than 
fifty. The parliamentary phase of these proceedings confused some 
good Free-Soilers of Maine, and they thought that men who supported 
the Senate amendment had withdrawn their opposition to the Texas 
grab scheme. There were also others who misunderstood the votes 
of anti-slavery members of the House in this latter incident. The 
following extract from a private letter which Mr. Hamlin wrote to 
a friend in Maine makes his position clear : 

" The resolutions were offered in the House for annexing Texas. 
They passed the House and went to the Senate. I voted against those 
resolutions in the House. They passed the Senate with an amend 
ment prepared by Colonel Benton. The amendment left the manner 
and terms to be fixed by negotiation. By that course (I mean Colonel 
Benton s) we believed, if annexation took place, we could prevent a 
war and secure at least half of the territory as free. Well, the amend 
ment of Colonel Benton s was carried in the Senate, and the resolu 
tions so passed the Senate. The amendment only was sent to the 


House, and I voted for it, as making the resolutions better. Bear in 
mind that the original resolutions were never sent back to the House. 
Nothing but the amendment came back there. That is the way of 
proceedings here. It is different in our state legislature. Hence, I 
did not vote for the original resolutions at any time." 

But the country was to be deprived of the fruits of the patriotism 
and wisdom of the honorable members of Congress. Zealous to snatch 
the credit of annexing Texas for his administration, President Tyler s 
last important official act was to sign the Texas bill, and send a mes 
senger off to Texas post haste with the legislative clause without the 
Senate s peace-bearing amendment, to announce to the impatient re 
public that it had been incorporated into the Union. It was the most 
perfidious act of a perfidious administration. Mr. Tyler usurped the 
rights of the incoming President, who in a few days was to take the 
oath of office. Senator Benton vehemently denounced this conduct 
of Tyler and Calhoun, and asserted that at least five Senators would 
have voted against the resolutions, had they known Mr. Tyler con 
templated this act. Their votes would have blocked the annexation 
scheme of the slave power at that juncture, and possibly averted what 
John Tyler was justly responsible for, the precipitation of a cruel 
and unjust war with Mexico. In the words of Senator Benton : " The 
flight of the winged messenger from this capital on the Sunday night 
before the 3d of March, dispatched by the then Secretary of State, in 
the expiring moment of his power, and bearing his fatal choice to the 
capital of Texas, was the direct cause of the war with Mexico. It 
broke up all the plans of peaceable men, slammed the door upon nego 
tiations, put an end to all chance for accommodations, broke up the 
camp on the Sabine, sent the troops to Mexico, and lit up the war." 

The danger of misunderstandings that every honest public man 
must meet was exemplified in Mr. Hamlin s experience in the Texas 
issue. His speech so incensed the slavery members of the House 
that they seriously considered the advisability of passing a vote of 
censure. At the same time there were anti-slavery Whigs in Maine 
who, not understanding the purport of the Benton amendment, failed 
to understand Mr. Hamlin s votes. Some historians, moreover, have 
failed to grasp the significance of the Benton amendment. Anti-sla 
very Democrats like Mr. Hamlin opposed the joint resolutions for fear 
that Texas would be annexed as a slave State, and also for fear that 
these resolutions would precipitate a war with Mexico. The adoption 
of the resolutions of annexation created a dangerous situation. The 
duty was devolved on the anti-slavery men of modifying the situation. 
They tried to do this by voting for the Benton amendment, which 
sought to accomplish annexation by negotiation, now that annexation 
had been decreed by an arbitrary slave power. 



NATIONAL feeling against the practice of dueling had been greatly 
intensified by the death of Jonathan Cilley in a meeting with William 
J. Graves, of Kentucky, on February 24, 1838, to which brief allusion 
has already been made. This was one of the least justifiable " affairs 
of honor " if the word justifiable may be used which ever occurred 
in this country. Mr. Cilley was a man of great courage and spirit. 
On entering Congress he encountered the fire-eating element, and 
when he heard their braggadocio and sneers at Yankees, he unfortu 
nately allowed his temper to show itself. He returned Southern 
sneers at Northern men, and asserted that he would fight if chal 
lenged. From the day Mr. Cilley gave way to his anger he was a 
marked man. In a short time he made a speech in which he criti 
cised an article that appeared in a newspaper, edited and published 
by General James Watson Webb, in the city of New York. General 
Webb was a duelist ; he had fought the year before with Thomas F. 
Marshall, of Kentucky. Thinking that Mr. Cilley s remarks were 
intended as a reflection on him, General Webb sent Mr. Cilley a chal 
lenge through Mr. Graves. Mr. Cilley, however, disclaimed any in 
tention of reflecting on General Webb, and declined to meet him. 
There the affair should have ended, but it did not ; it was even cur 
rently reported that Graves consulted Henry Clay, Henry A. Wise, 
and other Southern duelists, who urged him to challenge Mr. Cilley. 
Mr. Hamlin, who knew much about the affair, openly charged Clay 
with being morally responsible for Jonathan Cilley s death. Graves 
made Webb s alleged grievances a personal affair, and Cilley, finding 
his courage questioned, and although unfamiliar with firearms, and 
near-sighted, designated hair-trigger rifles as the weapons. 

The duel took place at Bladensburg, Md. Henry A. Wise was 
second for Graves, and George W. Jones, then a representative from 
Wisconsin, and afterwards a senator from Iowa, acted for Mr. Cilley. 
One shot was exchanged without effect, and then, according to the 
"code" as practiced by Southern experts, the affair should, have 
stopped. Mr. Jones took that ground, but Cilley s murder was in 
tended. Wise asserted that Graves s honor was not yet vindicated. 
A second shot was fired also without effect, and once more Mr. Jones 


insisted that honor was satisfied and that the duel should end. Not 
so with Wise ; he demanded that the unequal contest should go on. 
A third shot was fired, and Cilley fell, mortally wounded. This foul 
murder created a tremendous feeling against dueling at the North 
and in some parts of the South. Graves and Wise fell under the ban 
of public censure; the former was peremptorily retired from Con 
gress by his constituents, and died from remorse. It was the fate of 
Wise to receive one of the most awful excoriations ever heaped in 
public on the head of a wrong-doer. A few years afterwards, when 
Thomas F. Marshall, of Kentucky, Wise, and their fellow conspirators 
had John Quincy Adams at bay, and were trying to prevent him from 
exercising the rights of a freeman in presenting a petition to the 
House, the grand old Puritan roused himself like a lion. Pointing 
his trembling finger at Wise, he uttered these words in his shrill voice 
with all the power he could command : " Four years ago there came 
into this House a man with his han ds and face dripping with the 
blood of murder, and the blotches of which are yet hanging upon 
him." Before leaving the incident it should be added that Mr. 
Adams s denunciation of Wise caused him to be feared more than 
ever by the fire-eaters of the House, and yet respected by the best of 
Southern representatives. When another attempt was set on foot 
to expel Joshua R. Giddings for his anti-slavery sentiments, Tom 
Marshall was asked to lead. Marshall had some splendid qualities. 
"No," said he, with a look of disgust ; " when I had the old lion, John 
Quincy Adams, at bay, and he turned on me, you people deserted me. 
Now, damn you, skin your own skunks." 

The duel between Yancey and General Clingman was fought right 
after Yancey s speech. It was one of those curious meetings which 
were termed complimentary affairs, that is to say, the participants 
would fire one shot without intending to hit each other, after which 
their seconds would go through the farce of declaring honor satisfied. 
Emotion having been relieved, reconciliation followed, and the great 
men basked in the sunshine of each other s praise of his courage 
and willingness to vindicate his honor. But there was some mystery 
about the duel between Yancey and General Clingman, and garbled 
reports were soon flying around Washington. Probably to clear the 
matter up, the " National Intelligencer," a Washington newspaper, 
was authorized to state that a duel had taken place, and that after one 
shot had been fired friends intervened, and a reconciliation effected. 
This duel revived in Mr. Hamlin s mind the circumstances of Mr. 
Cilley e death, and he saw that a fitting opportunity had come for him 
to try to induce the House to adopt more stringent measures against 
dueling. Mr. Hamlin never lacked the moral courage to do what he 
believed to be his duty. One of his first declarations of principle 


was this : " I believe that nothing is ended until it is ended rightly." 
With this feeling he approached the Yancey-Clingman duel. For 
General Clingman, Mr. Hamlin always entertained a high personal 
regard ; for Yancey he had no regard whatever ; but the duel was in 
his mind a moral wrong, and he did not hesitate to pursue the course 
his conscience dictated, no matter what personal danger he might 

Mr. Hamlin took action in the midst of the Texas debate when 
attacks on slavery had inflamed the extreme Southern members to a 
high degree against their Northern colleagues. The morning the 
"Intelligencer" published the news of the duel, January 16, 1845, 
Mr. Hamlin prepared a resolution, and asked Preston King to offer 
it. The reading of the resolution fell on the apologists of dueling 
like a clap of thunder from a clear sky. It called for the appointment 
of a committee to investigate the story in the " Intelligencer," with 
power to recommend the expulsion of Yancey and Clingman should 
it prove to be true. Now to reveal their real sentiments on the sub 
ject of dueling would place the upholders of the "code" under the 
ban of public opinion ; but if they should permit the passage of the 
resolutions they would accomplish the expulsion of two of their num 
ber : and Southern members who opposed dueling, and voted for the 
resolutions, would expose themselves to the danger of angering their 
colleagues, neighbors, and constituents. A serious dilemma was pre 
sented, but a way out of it was quickly perceived ; in fact, the first 
incidents of the debate proved that the leaders of the " code party " 
proposed to defeat the passage of the resolutions on a convenient pre 
text. Hence, the first thing to do was to find the pretext. After 
Mr. King had read the resolutions, William W. Payne, an excitable 
member from Alabama, sprung to his feet and objected to their re 
ception. But that looked too much like intolerance, and the crafty 
Slidell tried to table them in the usual way. The House, however, 
believed that the resolutions should receive at least a semblance of 
fair play, and refused to accept Mr. Slidell s motion. An interesting 
debate then opened which shows how disingenuous fire-eaters could 
be even when professing high-sounding ideas of honor and chivalry. 

Kenneth Rayner, of North Carolina, made one of the chief argu 
ments against Mr. Hamlin s measure. He was thoroughly impreg 
nated with the purely Southern view of slavery and dueling ; but he 
grew, and when the crisis came in 1861, the true Rayner revealed 
himself a man of great courage, high sense of duty, and pure patriot 
ism. He attacked the anti-dueling resolutions largely for sentimental 
reasons, and although professing himself an opponent of dueling, 
yet took the apparently inconsistent ground that dueling was not 
an act of immorality which rendered a member an unfit associate 


for the other members of the House. His view of this duel and the 
resolutions was that there might be extenuating circumstances, and 
in expelling those who took part in it the House might inflict a griev 
ous wrong. " But," Mr. Rayner unhappily added, " I know how 
fruitless it is to appeal to the sensibilities and justice of the men who 
sit here with the halter of fanaticism about their heads. I, however, 
appeal to no feelings of humanity, but to the everlasting principles of 
justice." l 

The attitude of the typical fire-eater towards the resolutions was 
well illustrated in a speech by William W. Payne, the man who 
objected to the reception of the resolutions. His speech was long, 
rambling, coarse, and humorous in its inconsistency and nai vete". He 
asserted, for example, that the resolutions would accomplish nothing 
but a useless waste of time, and himself made the longest speech of 
the occasion. He declared that legislation on dueling could not check 
the evil, and then proposed a law. He betrayed a ludicrous ignorance 
of the rules of the House, by claiming that it had no right to act in the 
case brought before it, and insisted that there was no evidence before 
the House that a duel had been fought, ignoring the fact that the 
resolutions were introduced primarily to find out whether there had 
been a meeting between two of its members. The character of Mr. 
Payne s speech may be better judged from the following verbatim 
passages : " I have had a good deal of experience in the world for my 
age," said he, "and I tell you that every law passed for the suppres 
sion of dueling has only augmented the evil. If you really desire to 
apply the axe to the evil, you should pass a law disqualifying every 
one who fights a duel, if the distance at which he fights exceeds six 
feet. Pass such a law," Mr. Payne went on triumphantly, "and as 
sume it to be dishonorable to fight at a greater distance, I can assure 
the House that there would be none, or very few duels there would 
be none but which involved a man s reputation if he did not vindicate 
his honor." Dropping the role of the prophet, Mr. Payne proceeded 
to his peroration, and wound up in a blaze of pyrotechnic wrath. 
" What are we asked to do ? " he demanded. " Why, suppose we 
should carry out the investigation and expel a member of this House 
for dueling, do you suppose that there is a single district in this 
Union which would not send back such an expelled member by an 
overwhelming majority. If I were one of the gentlemen rumor said 
were engaged in a duel, and if the House should expel me, I would 
scorn and spit upon your act, and come back with increased majority." 
As a final word, Mr. Payne expressed the hope that the resolution 
would not pass. 

The most sarcastic effort came from Isaac E. Morse, of Louisiana, 
1 Congressional Globe, January 16, 1845, pp. 144, 145. 


whose masterpiece was the following resolution, which he offered as 
an amendment to the original measure : 

" Resolved, That the said committee be authorized to inquire whether 
any of the members of this House have violated any of the laws of the 
decalogue, or of the Ten Commandments, within the District of Columbia, 
or any of the States ; and that they be authorized to send for persons and 
papers ; and if they shall find any of the members here guilty of a violation 
of any of these laws or Commandments, or having left this District with an 
intention of so violating them, that they be required to bring in a resolution 
to expel all such members." 

When Mr. Hamlin arose to participate in the debate, there was 
great curiosity to hear what he would say, because he was known to 
be the sponsor of the resolutions, and also because he had proved 
himself to be one of the very best shots in Congress. A short time 
after Mr. Hamlin came to Washington, he accepted an invitation to 
join a party of congressmen in target shooting, which was a favorite 
pastime of the day. Long experience in hunting and target shooting 
at the musters in Maine had made Mr. Hamlin a crack marksman 
with the rifle. On this occasion he made the best record by hitting 
the bull s-eye three times in succession, at a distance of one hundred 
yards. This gave Mr. Hamlin a reputation as a great shot, which 
secured him against the danger of encountering the fate that befell 
his friend, Jonathan Cilley. There were several interruptions from 
members when Mr. Hamlin began his remarks, in answer to his argu 
ments, but after he reached his proper theme the House paid him 
the unusual compliment of maintaining a perfect silence until he had 
completed his speech. 

" Gentlemen have asked," said Mr. Hamlin, "what is the object of this 
resolution. Its object and design are manifest, and I hope that it will re 
ceive the favorable action of this body. ... I am in favor of the proposi 
tion. The gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Rayner) asks by what 
authority we undertake to interfere in this affair, the duel. I answer upon 
the authority of the highest and most sacred law of the land the Consti 
tution of the nation. . . . The gentleman also asks by what authority we 
propose to proceed. Again I tell him that we plant ourselves on the Con 
stitution as the platform and basis of our action. The Constitution says, 
* Each house may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its mem 
bers for disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two thirds, expel 
a member. . . . The common law incident to the power we exercise under 
this clause of the Constitution overrides all mere rules. Are we to be told 
that should a member rise in his place and commit a cool, deliberate mur 
der of an associate, we have no law to meet the exigency ? " 

Mr. Payne : " That would be a violation of the privileges of the 

Mr. Hamlin : " Yes ; that would be a violation of the privileges of the 


House, and more too. The decalogue mentioned in the amendment of 
the gentleman from Louisiana tells us that idolatry may be committed in 
the heart as plainly as in the overt act. Now, if I understand the provi 
sions of the Constitution, we have the clear and undoubted right to exer 
cise whatever powers might be in accordance with the rights of individual 
members, and which should comport with that breach of privilege which 
had been committed. 

" Again, the gentleman from North Carolina remarked that before any 
member should be expelled from this House, he should be found guilty of 
some immoral act. Let me tell the gentleman from North Carolina, that 
there are men ... in this Union who solemnly believe that when any man 
deliberately attempts to take the life of another there is immorality in 
his act." 

Mr. Rayner: "I am as much opposed to dueling as the gentleman from 
Maine ; but I said that dueling was not an act of immorality which would 
constitute a member an unfit associate for his brother representatives on 
this floor." 

Mr. Hamlin : " I accept the gentleman s explanation. I had not heard 
the latter part of his remarks ; but now that I understand him, I confess that 
it would take a nicer casuist than I to make a distinction between the lan 
guage I attributed to the gentleman and the language which he now avows. 
I asked if there was no immorality in the act of dueling, and the gentle 
man himself admits the fact. I then asked if it was not an act of immo 
rality which justified, nay, demanded the expulsion of any member who 
should deliberately commit it ; but the gentleman, while admitting that 
dueling was immoral, remarked again that it was not of that degree of 
turpitude that would justify the expulsion of a member who should have 
been engaged in it. I hardly know what is the gentleman s notion of a 
moral course of conduct. He speaks of men here who, he says, stimulated 
by fanatics at home, might ask an investigation into this alleged duel. To 
whom does the gentleman refer ? . . . I stand up for the North, and I say 
that this charge cannot be laid at our door. 

"But, gentlemen, I speak with feeling on this subject. I remember, 
alas, too well when a favored son of the State I have the honor to repre 
sent, in part, was sent to his * long and narrow home ; I remember that a 
wife and an infant child that had never gazed on its living father s face 
were left to mourn sadly over the fate of the man who should have been 
a husband and a father to them through weal and woe. I remember the 
excitement that pervaded my State, and I recall we were told that a man 
could not stand up here under the fire of reproaches unless he defied the 
laws of God and man and poured out the blood of humanity. It is the 
time, it is the hour, it is the day, for this republic to speak out against this 
inhuman practice in tones that shall thunder across its vast domain. It 
is time to set here an example of moral courage and rectitude. . . . Let 
us act as becomes us ; let us act as it becomes the great institutions be 
queathed us. Let us find out if there are moral influences here, and show 
that we are not representatives of fanatics." * 

1 Congressional Globe, January 16, 1845, P- H^. 


It was not to be expected that a House of Representatives under 
Southern influence would expel two Southern representatives for 
engaging in a practice sanctioned by Southern sentiment. Political 
considerations also influenced Northern members who were closely 
allied with their colleagues on the slavery issue. Obviously, it was 
impossible for this House to take an heroic course, whatever it pre 
tended its sentiments were. The wonder is that the resolutions 
obtained as large a vote as they did. The record was 102 against 86. 
The individual record is not given in the official report of the debate, 
which is inadequate in all respects, often leaving the reader in doubt 
as to the meaning of the speakers. Mr. Hamlin won a moral victory 
in obtaining so large a vote for his resolutions ; but it was useless for 
him to continue agitation on the subject, and with the announcement 
of the vote the Yancey-Clingman duel was dropped. But Mr. Ham- 
lin s speech, although not intended as an oratorical effort, but as a 
manly protest against a barbarous practice, attracted a great deal of 
attention at the time throughout the country, and was one of the 
many things that established him firmly in the esteem of people 
who value public men for their strength of character, purity of prin 
ciples, and genuine humanity, rather than for brilliancy of intellect 
and accomplishments of partisan leadership. Among Mr. Hamlin s 
associates who held the same views he did of moral questions, this 
arraignment of dueling strengthened him, and he was accepted as a 
coming leader of great measures. 

Before dismissing this episode in Mr. Hamlin s life, it is interesting 
to recall the fact that when legislation failed to suppress dueling 
among congressmen, ridicule became an effective weapon against it 
and supplemented the moral argument. This was the natural course 
of events, for ridicule follows denunciation as a factor in a movement 
against an evil. About this time an incident occurred that was one 
of several which turned the laugh of the nation on "knights of 
chivalry," whose ideas of honor and courage were as absurd as their 
practices were unfair and dangerous. Joshua R. Giddings was chal 
lenged to fight a duel, and in accepting named raw cowhides as the 
weapons, and as conditions stipulated that he and his challenger 
should tie their left thumbs together and lash each other until one 
should die under the whip. Now, considering the fact that Mr. Gid 
dings was not a practiced shot, while his challenger was an experi 
enced marksman, Giddings s proposition was on the whole the fairer. 
For a duelist to ask a man unaccustomed to the use of a rifle or 
pistol to fight him was tantamount to asking him to stand up and be 
shot in order that the former might satisfy his ideas of honor and 
vindicate his courage. Giddings had the advantage of weight and 
height, but it does not follow that he would have had the greater 


advantage in the end in a duel with cowhides, because his challenger 
was a slaveholder. 

More incidents happened that placed Southern duelists in the posi 
tion of would-be tragedians in burlesque. One affair of this sort 
nearly extinguished Roger A. Pryor in a gale of laughter which swept 
over the North. He " called out " John Fox Potter, a native of Maine 
and a representative from Wisconsin. Potter accepted the challenge, 
and with pretended savageness chose bowie knives as the weapons. 
This was the reductio ad absurdum of the code ; but affairs had not 
progressed to that stage in 1845 when Mr. Hamlin attacked dueling, 
and his speech remains a part of the suasive movement to kill the 
barbaric custom. 



THERE was a strange crossing of political interests and a singular 
reversal of fortunes when James K. Polk became President of the 
United States on March 4, 1845. Martin Van Buren made Mr. Polk 
speaker of the House in 1835, and John C. Calhoun, the bitter per 
sonal enemy of Jackson and Van Buren, made him President. Yet, 
Mr. Polk was also a protege of Old Hickory ; and as Clay was his 
opponent, Jackson roused himself in his last days to secure a final 
triumph over his rival. Jackson s friendship for Polk made him a 
"Young Hickory" in the eyes of his party, and the feeling for him 
that this created was no doubt a factor in electing him President. 
Mr. Polk s good fortune did not stop with the success of his campaign, 
for coming to the presidency in a period of great activity and develop 
ment, he is remembered now as the Executive of one of the most 
important administrations in the history of the government. Mr. 
Polk was a pleasant man to meet ; he was exceedingly courteous, of a 
rather grave demeanor and striking appearance, with his silver hair 
falling to his shoulders. One of the most industrious of presidents, 
Mr. Polk was nevertheless always accessible to members of Congress, 
and very patient. His private character was irreproachable, and his 
well-known piety won him the confidence of the conservative people 
of the country. He was not a great man ; but while he was thoroughly 
subservient to the slave power, he was sincere in believing that slavery 
was a blessing, and honestly deprecated agitation of the subject. He 
was much the superior of Pierce or Buchanan, although he marred 
his administration by his complicity in the conspiracy to bring on the 
Mexican war. 

The Twenty-ninth Congress was a more intellectual body than its 
predecessor. In the Senate the Whigs were strengthened by the 
return of Webster in full possession of his great powers ; of John M. 
Clayton, an able and upright statesman of Delaware ; of John Davis, 
one of the purest men Massachusetts ever sent to the Senate ; and 
by the acquisition of Thomas Corwin, of Ohio, the most brilliant plat 
form orator of his time ; Reverdy Johnson, the distinguished jurist of 
Maryland. The Democrats, on the other hand, were reinforced by 
the return of John C. Calhoun in the zenith of his power and fame ; 


by the appearance of General Lewis Cass, who was to be the Demo 
cratic candidate for President four years later ; by Simon Cameron, 
the shrewdest political manager of his day ; and of Daniel S. Dick 
inson, an able pro-slavery man of New York, and John A. Dix. 

The anti-slavery group in the House was increased by the appear 
ance of several Northern men who achieve^ distinction, or made cred 
itable records. One was David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, whose name 
is perpetuated in the famous anti-slavery proviso. He was of splen 
did physique, had sound common sense, coolness, and persistence, 
He quickly associated himself with Mr. Hamlin, Judge Brinkerhoff, 
Preston King, and their friends, and was a popular member of their 
circle. A prominent figure was Edward D. Baker, of Illinois, " The 
eloquent Baker," as he was affectionately called by his admirers. He 
was, indeed, one of the most brilliant champions of freedom the North 
produced in ante-bellum days, and fell at the head of his troops at 
Ball s Bluff. It is an interesting circumstance that Baker had obtained 
his nomination for Congress in a contest with Abraham Lincoln. A 
cool, well-balanced, and popular anti-slavery man who took his seat 
in this House was George Ashmun, of Massachusetts, who presided 
over the Republican National Convention of 1860. A newcomer 
from Vermont, who attained international distinction as a linguist, 
writer, and diplomat, was George P. Marsh. Another Vermont man 
of honorable record was Paul Dillingham, Jr., who served the Green 
Mountain State as its war governor, with credit to his State and him 
self. The new representatives from Maine were Cullen Sawtelle, J. 
F. Scammon, and Hezekiah Williams, friends of Mr. Hamlin, espe 
cially Mr. Sawtelle, who was long active among Mr. Hamlin s most 
trusted associates in his political career. Of historic interest was the 
entrance in this House of Allen G. Thurman, " The Old Roman of 
Ohio," with whom Mr. Hamlin formed a lifelong friendship, and with 
whom he retired from public life thirty-five years later. 

The picturesque group of coming Confederate leaders, which was 
partially formed in the preceding House, was completed by the ap 
pearance of Jefferson Davis, Robert Toombs, and James A. Seddon. 
The future president of the Confederacy was tall, of commanding 
appearance, and of the manner of one born to lead. Able, forceful, 
scholarly, and courteous, Davis soon made himself felt, and was rec 
ognized as a coming aspirant for the robes of John C. Calhoun. In 
marked contrast to Mr. Davis was Alexander H. Stephens, the future 
vice-president of the Confederacy, small, emaciated, sprung from the 
people, self-educated, but able, resourceful, and adroit. " Bob " 
Toombs embodied the arrogant, truculent, and aggressive spirit of 
extreme Southern sentiment. His black hair stood up all over his 
head, and his eyes flashed when he was stirred. He was very effec- 


tive in debate, and a daring leader ; yet his best qualities are forgot 
ten, and although he denied the story, Toombs goes down in history 
as the man who made the foolish boast that he would call the roll of 
his slaves at the foot of Bunker Hill Monument. Mr. Hamlin affirmed 
the truth of the incident, but said that Toombs did not use the exact 
words attributed to him. Howell Cobb, who was forging to the front 
as a candidate for speaker in the next House, was, on the other hand, 
the personification of the bonhommie, generosity, and true courage of 
the South. There were few men who could not like Howell Cobb ; 
of all Southern men Mr. Hamlin knew in the House, he liked Howell 
Cobb best. Henry W. Hilliard, a new member from Alabama, who 
achieved some distinction under the Confederacy, and afterwards 
served the national government with credit as its minister to Brazil, 
was another Southern leader with whom Mr. Hamlin entertained 
pleasant relations. 

The House was organized by the election of John W. Davis, of In 
diana, as speaker. Mr. Hamlin s status among his party associates 
may be judged by the fact that he was appointed chairman of the 
Committee on Elections and a member of the Committee on Rules. 
After the House had perfected its organization, it plunged into the 
Oregon question, which would admit of no further delay. This marked 
the beginning of an open conflict between the champions of freedom 
and slavery, and American and British diplomacy, which now reads like 
a romance. If inheritance, discovery, exploration, and survey consti 
tute a better claim to territory, rather than pretension based on false 
evidence and occupation under permission, then all of the land on the 
Pacific slope which was then called Oregon belonged to this nation. 
This embraced what is now included in the States of Oregon and Wash 
ington, and British Columbia, and Great Britain claimed it all except 
the lower part of the present State of Oregon, without the shadow of 
a legal title to it. The energy and patriotism of the Northern Demo 
cracy saved Washington and half of Oregon to this country ; the slave 
power betrayed the territory that is now British Columbia into the 
hands of the English government, and would have fastened its " pecul 
iar institution " on Oregon had it not been defeated by the same men 
who rescued this territory from the other danger. Mr. Hamlin was on 
Oregon s side in her long struggle for her rights and liberty, and thus 
the story can be repeated because it has a personal interest in these 

The history of England s pretensions to Oregon brings out more 
clearly the duplicity of the slave power, because it indirectly and 
secretly supported claims that were at best but a tissue of ingenious 
versions of the exploits of English adventurers and explorers, and 
thus morally proves that the slave power opposed the reoccupation of 


Oregon, because it was unwilling to risk a controversy with Great 
Britain which might prevent it from engaging the United States in a 
land-grabbing war with Mexico. Here are the facts. 1 Oregon was 
discovered and occupied by the Spanish. In consequence of a col 
lision at Nootka Sound between Spanish and English sailors, Spain 
allowed Great Britain the rights of trade hi Oregon, but yielded no 
rights of sovereignty in the territory. Charles James Fox, in a satiri 
cal speech in Parliament, demonstrated the substantial worth of the 
Nootka treaty when he asked what had England actually gained from 
the convention that she did not possess before. In 1819 the United 
States came into amicable possession of the Spanish lands in this 
country and also their titles. The year before, the United States and 
Great Britain had agreed on the forty-ninth parallel as their boundary 
line from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. As Spak 
then claimed some sovereignty in Oregon, our government and Eng 
land agreed to leave the Oregon boundary line unfixed, and to occupy 
the territory jointly for ten years. The reservation was that the joint 
occupancy should not enter into the final settlement of the boundary 
line, and that it should be terminated only when one of the contract 
ing parties gave twelve months notice. 

For this reason the question did not come up again until 1827-28. 
Now, for many years Great Britain had been carrying out her well- 
known land-seizing policy in Oregon, through the instrumentality of 
the Hudson Bay Fur Company. This company had pushed its way 
down through Oregon to the Columbia River, erecting forts and set 
tlements which bore the British flag. When the boundary question 
arose in 1827-28, Great Britain, feeling secure in her position, since 
there were few American citizens in Oregon, and the attention of our 
government was given to more serious matters than the adjustment 
of a boundary line on an extreme western frontier, claimed territory 
in Oregon as far south as the Columbia River. The utter worth- 
lessness of Great Britain s pretensions are easily recognized. One 
claim was based on the assertion that Vancouver discovered the 
Columbia River. The fact was, Vancouver himself, in an honorable 
statement, gave the credit of the discovery to Captain John Gray, of 
Boston, the first man to carry the American flag around the world. 
Another equally false pretension was that McKenzie had explored 
Oregon. The fact was, he did not cross the Rocky Mountains, 
whereas Lewis and Clarke surveyed Oregon under the direction of 
President Jefferson. A more preposterous claim to British sov 
ereignty was that the Nootka convention gave the British govern- 

1 The chief authorities consulted are the speeches by John Quincy Adams and 
others in the House and the History of Oregon and California by Robert Green- 
how (1845). 


ment full right to Oregon. The fact was, a war occurred between 
England and Spain in 1796, shortly after the adoption of the Nootka 
convention, which circumstance, according to English precedents, 
destroyed the treaty. A final incident may be cited to show how 
weak England s title to what is now the State of Washington, and 
more than half of Oregon, was in her own eyes. In 1827 the life 
of the nation was still east of the Alleghany Mountains, and the 
government, not appreciating the value of Oregon, offered to com 
promise with Great Britain on the forty-ninth parallel ; but the Brit 
ish government, realizing the value of delay, refused to accept this 
offer, in hope that it might ultimately acquire all the land north of 
the Columbia River. Yet, twenty years later, Great Britain yielded 
these claims, and accepted the forty-ninth parallel as the boundary 

In 1835 tne tide of emigration rolled into Oregon, and American 
citizens found themselves living in an American country under the 
jurisdiction of a foreign power. They began to petition Congress to 
fix a boundary line, and extend United States laws over them. The 
Democratic party responded to their petitions, and on this issue won 
the sympathies of the North. With the return of the Twenty-eighth 
Congress to Washington, after the triumphant election of Mr. Polk, 
the Northern leaders of the Democracy prepared to redeem the 
Democracy s pledges to Oregon, and planned to pass a resolution 
giving Great Britain the twelve months notice to terminate the treaty 
of joint occupation of Oregon. Mr. Hamlin made an incisive speech, 
urging Congress to take immediate action, and there was an interest 
ing debate that, however, is now important only as a prelude to a 
great contest which followed in the next Congress. No one can 
doubt the sincerity of the leaders of the Northern Democracy in 
insisting that their party should fulfill its pledges. Their anger, 
chagrin, and dismay may easily be imagined, therefore, when they 
detected signs that the Southern leaders of the Democracy intended 
to betray the party if they could. The fact transpired that the day 
the Democratic National Convention affirmed that our claim to all of 
Oregon up to 54 40 was clear and unquestionable, Mr. Calhoun, as 
secretary of state, was secretly negotiating with Great Britain to 
compromise on the forty-ninth parallel. Taking their cue from Cal 
houn, the leaders of the slave power began to change base on the 
Oregon question. The resolutions to give Great Britain the treaty 
notice was not passed, and the Twenty-eighth Congress expired under 
these conditions. 

This breach of faith aroused great indignation among the Northern 
Democrats, and the war feeling against Great Britain which arose 
grew out of their anger over their betrayal ; and was an intimation to 


the slave power that the Northern Democrats were fiercely in earnest 
over the Oregon question. The Twenty-ninth Congress convened 
under these circumstances, with a considerable war party in it led by 
General Cass. President Polk opened the question in his annual 
message, in which he reaffirmed our rights to Oregon in plain but 
dignified, courageous terms. The next crucial move was made by 
General Cass, who introduced in the Senate a resolution instructing 
the military and naval committees to investigate their departments 
and ascertain their condition. This was a significant expression of 
the war feeling of the hour. The debate that followed breathed war, 
and the Democratic press teemed with declarations of hostility to 
Great Britain. The natural consequence was that there was an out 
burst of ill-feeling in England. Lord Palmerston, the leader of the 
opposition, characterized the President s message as bluster, and Sir 
Robert Peel and other leaders in Parliament avowed Great Britain s 
determination to maintain her claims in Oregon. Thus a war scare 
arose, and the leaders of the slave party were quick to take advantage 
of the opportunity to array the conservative element of the country 
against a controversy with England, by emphasizing the horrors of 
war, although they had deliberately pursued a course towards Mexico 
that was destined to plunge the country into war with that nation. 
The Whigs embodied the conservative spirit of the country, and thus 
the slave party had respectable and powerful allies. But there was a 
large and strong party in Congress led by no less a man than John 
Quincy Adams, who favored giving the treaty notice to Great Britain, 
and did not believe that England would go to war over the Oregon 
question. Mr. Hamlin stood with Mr. Adams. 

Mr. Adams s position is the best authority the history of the times 
affords of the legality of our title to all of Oregon. Both as secretary 
of state and President, he had dealt with the Oregon boundary-line 
question, and urged our title up to 54 40 . He was the best repre 
sentative of his day of the educated conscience of the nation. He 
knew we were right in the Oregon controversy ; his vast experience 
in diplomacy taught him the value of British bluster. Nominally a 
Whig, Mr. Adams broke away from his party on this occasion, and in 
a unique speech proved that the American title to 54 40 was " clear 
and unquestionable." Mr. Adams s position is strengthened by the 
fact that it cost him an election to the United States Senate. The 
incident is, therefore, another measure of his devotion to principle 
and truth. His speech was most embarrassing to the slave party ; 
but, having made up their minds to retreat from the declaration of the 
Baltimore convention, the leaders continued their tactics of opposi 
tion. A speech by R. Barnwell Rhett, of South Carolina, illustrated 
these tactics. Rhett was an adept in raising hair-splitting questions. 


His speech was an ingenious tissue of quibbles, evasions, and insinu 
ations. Evidently it was Rhett s purpose to embroil the Northern 
and Southern wings of the Democracy in a controversy in the hopes 
of weakening the former. But by an unlucky chance he indirectly 
insinuated that John Quincy Adams served only the interests of 
New England by charging him with opposing the war of 1812, and 
voting against the granting of supplies to our troops. The old Puri 
tan completely exposed Rhett s malice, and floored him at one blow, 
by simply stating the fact that he was out of the country at the time 
as the United States minister to Russia. 

When the debate was resumed, Rhett regained his courage, and 
renewed the charge against Mr. Adams. But the old lion was ready 
this time for the whole slave party. Mr. Adams was always at his 
best in debate when his temper was at white heat. Then he forged 
thunderbolts. 1 Rhett s attack induced Mr. Adams to explain his 
position in the war of 1812, and as he reached the climax, he declared 
impressively that he did not believe there would be war between 
Great Britain and the United States, even if our government should 
send troops to Oregon the day after the treaty notice was served on 
England. He followed up this assertion with a vehement and posi 
tive charge that he apprehended other circumstances would prevent a 
war, " the ultimate backing out of the present administration and its 
supporters from the ground they have taken." This was the first 
time the slave party in the House had been squarely told to its face 
what its opponents suspected of its purposes in the Oregon matter, 
and pandemonium reigned for a few moments. 

Speeches that were made by other members of the slave party were 
more adroit than Rhett s, though aimed at the same object, and fol 
lowing the same lines, emphasizing the horrors of an armed conflict, 
as if one was certain to be provoked should the United States reoc- 
cupy Oregon. Yancey, of Alabama, spoke eloquently on the subject of 
war, and, in denying that the nation s honor demanded that it should 
insist on its rights in Oregon, alluded to honor as that " blood-stained 
god at whose red altar sit war and homicide," regardless of the fact 
that he himself had recently worshiped at that altar in an affair of 
honor. Toombs, of Georgia, made a speech in opposition to giving the 
treaty notice to England, basing his reasons on his alleged belief that 
the United States did not hold title to the limit the government 
claimed, in spite of the fact that all the best authorities in the coun 
try supported the claim, whether or not they were prepared to enforce 
it. Toombs followed up this line of argument with a crafty and plau 
sible indorsement of a suggestion of Henry W. Milliard, of Alabama, 
which had the merit of sincerity, that power be delegated to the 
1 Mr. Hamlin s description. 


President to settle the controversy with England by negotiation, a 
plan that would obviously suit the slave party s desire for delay. 
These tactics moved Mr. Hamlin to speak out his mind, and obtain 
ing the floor after Toombs, he made a speech that was a calm survey 
of the situation in the House and the country and a patriotic appeal 
to the House to perform its duty. As an oratorical effort it was the 
best of Mr. Hamlin s early service in Congress, and discloses ideas 
of form and symmetry which are absent from the practical and plain 
style of address he finally chose in speaking before the people. Mr. 
Hamlin began his remarks by making a respectful recognition of John 
Quincy Adams s speech, and by corroborating the veteran s charge 
that the war-cry was raised to defeat the treaty notice resolutions. 
Mr. Hamlin said : 

" I come to the consideration of the question before us, I trust, with a 
full understanding of its momentous importance, and of the magnitude of 
the interests that are committed to our hands to be affected for weal or 
for woe by the right or wrong decision we make. The eyes of twenty mil 
lions of people are watching our action here, and the hearts of twenty 
millions of freemen are beating with anxiety as to the action we shall finally 
take. It has been well said by the venerable gentleman from Massachu 
setts (John Quincy Adams) that, for the years that are to come, there would 
not be a question submitted to the American Congress equal in its impor 
tance, equal in its moment. 

" But proceeding directly to the subject, I design to refer, and in a few 
remarks to reply, to ... gentlemen who have preceded me in this debate. 
. . . . War, war, has been shouted within these walls and echoed over 
our vast country to react on this body. ... I care not whether these 
shouts of war were manufactured here or elsewhere ; I shall not be diverted 
from my path of duty by that stale and senseless cry. I have heard it 
before, and upon this subject a year ago at the other end of the Capitol. 
When it was there, it was the same master spirit that raised this cry of 
war, war, to defeat this measure. Why is it gentlemen assume this 
position, a position which the facts do not justify ? Rome had her Punic 
war ; it is reserved for us to have our panic war. 

"Let us examine the position of the question before us. In 1818 a 
certain convention was entered into between the respective governments 
of the United States and Great Britain, relative to the territory upon our 
northwest coast known as the Oregon Territory. That treaty was by its 
own limitations to remain in force but ten years. In 1827 it was renewed 
by a treaty which was to be terminated whenever either of the two high con 
tracting parties should give twelve months notice of its desire to termi 
nate it. 

" And now, forsooth, because we come here in the way marked out by 
the treaty, to exercise the power thus especially provided for in the treaty, 
we are to be met as the war party. I repel the imputation, and I hurl it 
back again. It is that very cry in and of itself that tends more to produce 


a war than any other course. Which course can be taken here ? We on 
this side of the House are the peace party. Timid counsels tend to war ; 
* fear admitted to our councils betrays like treason. 

"I cannot sympathize, then, with gentlemen who use this argument, 
although they may use it honestly ; nor will I permit it to divert this discus 
sion, so far as I am concerned, from its true and legitimate track ; we ask 
nothing on this side of the House but the exercise of our constitutional 
rights ; rights that are pointed out and defined by this very treaty under 
which we are acting. And is it true that the exercise of these rights, as 
we propose it, is any cause of war, No, sir. * Old men see visions, and 
young men dream dreams, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Hunter) 
tells us, and, my word for it, it was but the dream of the gentleman s wak 
ing hours when he made the anti-war speech, or calculated to be a war 
measure ? While with gentlemen in all parts of the House I most cheerfully 
concur that peace is to be desired above everything else save the preserva 
tion of our national rights and our national honor, I do not hold war to be 
an evil from which we should shrink, when the preservation of our national 
rights and our national honor demand it. ... 

"There is another remark to which I must allude. Too often within 
these walls, in the discussion of various measures, I have heard taunts and 
reproaches, either directly or by implication, cast upon various sections of 
this Union ; and when they have been directed to that section where it is 
my pleasure and pride to reside, I have felt a thrill along my nerves like 
an electric shock, and the impulses of my heart have been on my lips, to 
hurl them back again. But time and reflection have chastened my feel 
ings, and I passed them by in sorrow that they should come from the lips 
of any individual on this floor ; and while it is my glory and my pride to 
be an inhabitant of that section whose motives have been so often ques 
tioned here, I have a single word to say in behalf of that people. I have 
no objections to interpose here in defense of what may have been errors 
or the wickedness of her politicians ; but in behalf of her citizens I have 
a word to say. I believe them to be as patriotic as any other class of 
citizens in our Union. They have exhibited their patriotism and their 
valor on many a well-fought field. Their bones have bleached on many a 
Northern hill, and the barren sands of the South have drunk their best 

" Sir, I point you with pride to the North, and invite you there to witness 
a system which has grown up with us, and which is our ornament. I point 
you to our system of free labor. I point you to our common schools, to 
our churches with their spires pointing toward heaven, and I glory in them. 
They are the monuments that belong to a people who have the true spirit 
of citizens of a free government. But I stop not there ; I ask you to go 
with me throughout this broad nation. I point you to her I point you to 
the whole Union as a monument of political grandeur towering towards 
the heavens upon which the friend of freedom, wherever upon our globe 
he may be, may gaze ; around whose higher summit the sunlight of glory 
forever shines, and at whose base a free people repose, and I trust forever 


will repose. So much for New England, my home. So much for the 
Union, my country. . . . 

" If there is a single duty which arises over, above, and beyond all others, 
it is that of the American republic to afford protection to every American 
citizen wherever he may be found on American soil. It is one of the high 
est duties incident to the charge committed tg their hands ; wherever our 
nation s flag floats upon the breeze, it should be a certain index of ample 
protection to the American citizen in all his rights of person and property. 
Why is it true that in the nineteenth century, which we believe to be the 
best the world has ever seen, the cry, I am an American citizen, shall 
not be as sure a safeguard and a pledge of protection as the cry, I am 
a Roman citizen, was in the palmy days of Rome ? 

" It was said by an ancient philosopher that the government which feels 
most sensibly, and which redresses most promptly, every injury visited by a 
foreign power upon its most humble citizen has but only discharged the 
duties incumbent upon it. And is it not so ? What in a greater degree 
than the strict discharge of its duty to its citizens will call forth their affec 
tions and their loyalty, and will draw them forth to protect the institutions 
and defend the standard of their common country in the hour of their 
common perils ? . . . 

" How then is our government to extend that protection and that aid 
which are required from it to its citizens to those wanderers to the distant 
portion of its territory westward of the Rocky Mountains ? Sir, those citi- 
. zens have been wrested from American soil to be tried for alleged offenses 
by foreign law. They have been dragged from their peaceful homes 
from their own domestic firesides and have been tried and held amenable 
to the laws of the British provinces, and here in the nineteenth century, 
from this stale clamor of war ringing in our ears, are we to stop and fold 
our arms about us, and say, We will pause awhile before we give this 
notice we may rouse the lion from his lair England, with her chain of 
military posts around the world, maybe aroused and we do not precisely 
foresee what will be the consequences ? 

" No, the notice should be given now, and protection to American citi 
zens should be extended wherever they are found on American soil. And 
then that flag that has been borne aloft in triumph in the battle and in the 
breeze, upon the ocean and upon the lakes, the emblem of protection to 
each and every one of our citizens, will float forever over the homes of a 
free and happy people. That flag which now 

" So proudly drinks the morning light, 
O er ocean wave, in foreign clime, 
A symbol of our might. 

" This faithful discharge of governmental duties will be one of the 
strongest arguments in favor of the advancement of the principles of our 
own free government. The feeling of every citizen, that protection in per 
son and property is secured to him by the laws and by the flag of his 
country, will serve more surely than aught else to extend and widen our 


broad domain. Let it be done, and our government will pursue its onward 
course by its moral power, until it shall extend from the Isthmus of Darien 
to the frozen regions of the North from the rough, rock-bound coast of 
the Atlantic, back to the gentle murmurs of the Pacific. Then, in the 
inimitable language of our own distinguished poet, 

" Wide shall our own free race increase, 

And wide extend the elastic chain 
That binds in everlasting peace 
State after State a mighty train. 

" Oregon is ours, it belongs to us, and the question of title I have no 
disposition here to examine. It has been thoroughly and ably examined 
by those who are in authority, and the result has been presented to the 
American republic. I have no disposition to go into that examination. 
I should be well satisfied to rest myself on him who may well be consid 
ered the Achilles in this question in the position that our title was better 
than that of England. It was more, it was a perfect title. This being our 
territory, then by the laws and rules established by Great Britain herself, 
let us examine into its importance in a commercial point of view. 

" We have been told, on another occasion, within these walls, that it was 
necessary to extend our public domain in the southwest, for the purpose of 
securing to our country a monopoly of the cotton-growing interest ; and the 
argument was as broad as the Union ; it came home to the feelings, to the 
interests, and to the principles of action of the representatives from every 
section of our country. Let us weigh by the same rules the rules estab 
lished on that occasion the commercial considerations involved in this 
question. The Northern and Middle States are essentially manufacturing 
States, the Northern States particularly ; they are situated in a high lati 
tude, under a forbidding climate, and yet they have the industry of their 
citizens, the water-power and the facilities given them by nature, to render 
them a manufacturing people. The South, the sunny South, may grow 
the staple product of the country, and the West may be the granary not 
only of our own country, but give it an outlet the granary of the world. 
Then I say, in a commercial point of view, this matter comes home to 
the feelings and interests of every citizen of every section of our widely ex 
tended country. The North must necessarily be the manufacturing section 
of the Union. Let them have an outlet ; let there be an easy mode of trans 
portation and communication to the far West, and we would become the 
manufacturers almost of the world. The Northern and Middle States must 
be that portion of the Union which will supply not only India, but China, 
and all the Eastern portions of the world, with their manufactured articles. 
But I do not stop here. The matter comes home equally to the interests of 
the South, because for the supply of those manufactured articles, the South 
would be called upon for their staple, for increased production of their 
staple, which in its manufactured form is thus destined to find its way to 
the markets of the East. It is a question in which the West has no right 
to assume a particular interest. It is a question that comes home equally 


to the North, South, East, and West. It is a great national question, co 
extensive with our Union. Why ! we are already opening our markets in 
the East. We have already established our treaty stipulations with China. 
We have already sent our cotton and manufactured goods into the Eastern 
empire. Last year more than six millions of dollars of American manu 
factured goods were sent to the Eastern continent, and of that amount four 
million dollars is believed to have been of cotton goods. We have opened 
the Chinese market ; and in opening that market, with the advance which 
commerce will give in that distant portion of the globe to civilization, to 
refinement, and to Christianity, we have opened a market which will call for 
untold millions of the manufactured articles of the Northern and Middle 
States manufactured from the staple of the South. 

" Besides, the commerce of the North is deeply interested in the whaling 
ships. The ocean is now covered with nearly seven hundred ships and 
half a hundred smaller vessels, manned by more than 20,000 of our citizens, 
who are sending home as the fruits of their labor more than 3,000,000 gal 
lons of oil annually. The trade between the United States and the East 
Indies is already very important. But it will be vastly increased when 
we shall find a route for that trade overland to the Pacific and across that 
ocean to India. Wherever the people of the East have become enlightened 
by commercial intercourse with us, she will consume a vast quantity of our 
products, while they will supply us liberally with theirs. Who can tell 
what uncounted millions of manufactured goods from the United States 
will be marketed in the East Indies ? Commerce is therefore greatly in 
terested in preserving the integrity of our domain. I would gladly pursue 
this subject farther, if time were allowed, and show that this question is one 
which concerns the commerce of the whole country, and that the whole 
people of the United States are interested in it. But I am limited in time, 
and cannot pursue the subject in all its details. 

"I am in favor of giving this notice, as I have already declared. I am 
still in favor of giving it. For this course I will give reasons. First, I 
trusted that by giving the notice, the danger of delay and of obstruction in 
our councils would be obviated. The gentleman who immediately pre 
ceded me in the debate (Mr. Toombs) preferred the amendment of the gen 
tleman from Alabama (Mr. Hilliard), which leaves it discretionary with the 
President to give notice at such time as he may see fit. 

" This will lead to serious difficulties. I will say that this proposition 
came with no good design, so far as I can judge of it, though I have no 
doubt of the honorable motives of the gentleman who offered it. It will 
change the issue that ought to be made. Instead of inquiring whether we 
would act now, we would, by this course, give a discretionary power to the 
Executive to act or not, and either now or at a later period. Some would 
think that the President had acted too soon, if he acted now ; others would 
think he had acted too late, if he postponed it. It would give an oppor 
tunity to many to shelter themselves from responsibility, and to reproach 
the President with having acted out of time. 

"The true question is, whether we should give the notice now. Shall we 


assume the responsibility of action or throw it on the President ? That is 
an important question. Why should not we take upon ourselves the respon 
sibility of action in the matter ? 

"Many gentlemen ^ wished to shift the responsibility from themselves; 
and then, if the President should act promptly they would say that he had 
let slip the golden moment. Why, if the subject had been referred to us, 
and if the power belonged to us, should we not exercise the power and give 
the notice at once ? If there was any advantage in giving the notice at all, 
it was proper to give it at the earliest moment, without loss of time. If we 
do not give it now, in what position shall we be left ? The whole subject 
would be suffered to take its chance without an effort on our part to main 
tain our rights. I know that it has been recommended to us to adopt * a 
wise and masterly inactivity that was to do nothing. I should rather 
call it masterly duplicity, or masterly dishonesty, to take measures in an 
indirect way, to get possession of the country without suffering our object 
to be known. How long do gentlemen wish to carry on this masterly dupli 
city ? Some of them have fixed a limit to it of twenty years. Sir, I have a 
single idea on that point. We have told our people that they might occupy 
that country. Are they to be thus encouraged to go there and settle, and 
yet not be entitled to our protection ? If you do not take them under your 
wing can you expect to retain their affection ? No. They would be faith 
less to themselves if they gave you any confidence or affection after such 
treatment. As well might a mother expect the love of her children whom 
she repelled from her bosom, and cast out into the world without protec 
tion. It would be a most unnatural mother that would cast off her children, 
as we would do, were we not to give this notice. Should we acquire a col 
ony by this course of masterly dishonesty, it would make us the reproach of 
all nations. There is one thing in the British government which I admire, 
much as I despise all the vanity about her power, and greatness, and glory. 
I admire it for one special quality its care of its subjects. It gives pro 
tection to its subjects all over the world. Wherever the subject of England 
might be, he is covered with the protection of British laws and British power. 
This, in my opinion, is an example worthy of imitation. 

" I will go a step farther than the notice, and extend the protection of 
our laws over our citizens in Oregon. If we do not we shall fall short of 
our duty. After doing this, I would go still farther, and create those bands 
of iron which will bind indissolubly together in our Union the people of 
the Atlantic and the people of the Pacific. I would go for a railroad 
across the Rocky Mountains for annihilating time and space between us 
and the inhabitants of the Pacific coast. From a military point of view, 
this railroad would be necessary. We would be obliged, for the protection 
and defense of the country, to establish this mode of communication. 
While it would afford military protection for the defense of the country, 
it would be the means of creating a vast trade between the Eastern and 
Western portions of the continent. The immediate consequence of such a 
trade will be to open a traffic in our manufactures with the people of the 
East Indies ; next, we shall be able to drive out all competition on the part 
of the British fabrics in that lucrative and important trade. 


" We would by means of this overland communication soon be able to 
create immense commercial depots on the coast of the Pacific. We could 
make voyages to the East Indies in half the time that Great Britain could. 
Our manufactures would thus compete in that important and increasing 
market with those of Great Britain, and, indeed, drive out all competition, 
and thus they would become established on a firm foundation, without the 
aid of a black tariff to maintain them. 

" I have always opposed internal improvements by the general govern 
ment, but I would adopt this improvement as a military work one neces 
sary for the public defense, though it would be used for civil and commer 
cial purposes. Should the United States delay to do their duty to their 
citizens in Oregon, the British government would avail itself of the delay 
to take measures for securing the territory to its subjects. Great Britain 
has already, by force and fraud, covered the world with more than a hun 
dred colonies. She has done this by blood and carnage, and in violation of 
the rights of all nations with which she has been connected as an ally, or 
opposed to as a foe. 

" The history of India will tell the whole story. In the year 1600, dur 
ing the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a charter for commercial purposes was 
granted to some private trading adventures. This company have spread 
death and desolation over the East. Under Warren Hastings every crime, 
every species of perfidy and cruelty and rapine, was perpetrated for the 
acquisition of territory and of wealth by the company. So fearful and pro 
digious was his rapacity and cruelty that he became the theme of universal 
execration by orators and poets. It has been remarked in one of the 
invectives against him that when some wretch, laden with horrid crimes 
without a name, should stalk through earth, and we want curses for him 

" * We d torture thought to curse the wretch, 
And then to damm him most supreme 
We d call him Hastings. 

" It would be easy to run a parallel between the East India Company 
and the Hudson Bay Company. It would show us the necessity of taking 
hold of this matter in due time, and of giving this notice now. 

" Government after government has submitted to British power in the 
East, some being reduced by fraud and treachery, and others by force, 
until now the population brought under sway amounts to more than a hun 
dred millions. I would be glad to trace the progress of this government 
in the East Indies ; but not having time I would say, from beginning to 
end it is stamped with infamy. I call the attention .of the committee to 
these facts, in order to show that, unless we give the notice, the Hudson 
Bay Company, which is formed upon principles akin to that in the East, 
will, by gradual encroachments, become possessed of all the strong positions 
in Oregon, and be more difficult to dislodge. We might find a parallel in 
their progress to the corporation that has so long oppressed and devastated 
the East. By what waters were the Hudson Bay Company originally 
bounded ? By those waters that emptied into Hudson s Bay. But still 


that company had by virtue of a connection with the Northwestern Com 
pany stretched across to the Pacific. It is the policy of Great Britain to 
plant and maintain colonies ; and one of the modes of doing it is to operate 
through chartered companies. This policy she is now applying to the Ter 
ritory of Oregon ; and it will succeed there, as well as it has elsewhere, 
unless we interfere in behalf of our settlers to protect them, and give the 
notice of the termination of the joint convention. 

" No longer ago than the year 1790, the British government claimed the 
right to make settlements on the Pacific coast, north of the Spanish settle 
ments. Delay has taken place on the other side, and encroachments of 
Great Britain have not been observed. At length Great Britain has not 
only made settlements above the oldest Spanish settlements, but also far 
below them, and has now come down to the Columbia River. Originally 
her territorial pretensions were only to points beyond the oldest Spanish 
settlements, but soon she will come down to forty-seven. [A member here 
said, She is really there now. ] 

" Yes, sir ; she will soon be there, even if she is not there now. What, 
then, can be gained by delaying the notice, which is the only means by 
which we can arrest her progress ? While men talk of war, which still 
only exists in the visions of old men, and the dreams of young ones, 
while this bugbear is held up, we are losing the opportunity to secure for 
ourselves and our children an important and valuable country. What will 
arise is only an inference on the part of these gentlemen. They have not 
shown how it will arise. They have not shown us the modus operandi. 
But we well know that the British pretensions will be strengthened by eter 
nal delay. The longer we delay the notice, the more arrogant will the 
British pretensions become. One point more. Our old men, the gentle 
man from Virginia says, * see visions, our young men dream dreams. I am 
not old, and I can see visions ; and the dreams I leave to the gentleman 
from Virginia. Let those who dream, imagine that a war will arise from 
our assertion of our rights ; I do not believe it. But the vision I see is that 
of a populous and enterprising State on the Pacific slope, with manufac 
tures, and commerce, and navigation. The waters rushing down to the 
Pacific will turn thousands of wheels and spindles. 

" Our people will move to that region, and carry with them all their arts 
and skill, in all the various branches of manufactures which they have 
established in this region. In due time they will supply a large portion of 
America, as well as Asia, with their fabrics. It will not be long before our 
settlement will extend down to the Mexican boundary. I appeal to the 
gentlemen from the South to come to our rescue, and avail themselves of 
this fair opportunity to obtain Oregon. I ask your attention to the position 
we occupy before the American people and the world, in regard to this 
subject ; and assure you that for us there is no retreat from the responsi 
bility of this act, without incurring the just reproach of the people of the 
United States, and, indeed, of the whole world. The Executive has pre 
sented his views to Congress, and has recommended to us the passage of 
the measure now before us. He has asked for our early action upon it. 


The stale cry of war ought not to prevent us from discharging this duty, 
and if we should falter in performing it, we should be branded as unfaith 
ful to our trust. 

" The Executive has laid before us a statement of our just claims, show 
ing that they have a solid and stable basis. The whole world will be con 
vinced of their truth and justice ; and can an American Congress be found 
slow to defend and assert them ? 

" I would appeal again to the South, and to the spirit of their fathers, 
of Sumter, Marion, and Pinckney, and call upon them to come up to this 
duty of defending our soil. Should fear of consequences prevent us from 
vindicating our rights from foreign aggression ? Should the horrors of war 
deter us from pursuing our line of duty ? Will they not come up to the 
struggle, if need be, and like * reapers descend to the harvest of death ? 

" True, the South has peculiar interests that would be hazarded in a 
war ; but has not the whole Atlantic border a deep stake in the counte 
nance of peace ? We, sir, in the Northeast have an extensive commerce. 
Our ships are found in every sea, and we have cities on the seaboard 
exposed to the assaults of an enemy. But, sir, we are willing to hazard 
everything in the defense of our country, and to lay all our wealth as an 
offering on the altar of the public safety. But who can believe, sir, that 
England will go to war because we do an act that we are entitled to do by 
treaty stipulations ? This is too absurd an idea to be for a moment enter 
tained by any one. 

" But there is another view of the subject. I do not pretend to be a 
wizard, nor to foretell future events, but coming events sometimes cast 
their shadows before them. Judging of the future by the past, I would say 
the moral force of our institutions would spread them over every portion of 
this continent. Their progress is as certain as destiny. I cannot be mis 
taken in the idea that our flag is destined to shed its lustre over every 
hill and plain on the Pacific slope, and on every stream that mingles with 
the Pacific. What would monarchical institutions do ? what would tyrants 
do in this age of improvement this age of steam and electricity? 

" The still small voice in our legislative halls and seminaries of learning 
would soon be reechoed in distant lands. Shall we fold our hands and 
refuse, under all these circumstances, to discharge our duty ? No, let us 
march steadily up to this duty, and discharge it like men, 

* And the gun of our nation s natal day 

At the rise and set of the sun 
Shall boom from the far Northeast away 

To the vales of Oregon. 
And ships on the seashore luff and tack, 

And send the peal of triumph back. " l 

Our rights to Oregon were set forth so clearly before the House 
that even Whigs, who had opposed the issue in the Polk campaign as 
a catch-vote device, came to the support of the treaty notice resolu- 
1 Congressional Globe, January 12, 1845-46, pp. 186-188. 


tions, influenced, no doubt, by Mr. Adams s powerful and authorita 
tive speech. The slave party practically abandoned the fight in the 
House, and yet Messrs. Yancey and Rhett, who had indorsed the 
Oregon declarations of the Democratic National Convention, con 
tinued to act in concert with Mr. Calhoun to the end, knowing that 
defeat awaited the resolutions in the Senate. But there were South 
ern Democrats who resented the attempt to betray their party. One 
was Jefferson Davis and another was Howell Cobb, who were con 
spicuous for their high sense of honor. Events had not yet come to 
pass that wrenched many a man from his anchorage. The support 
that Davis, Cobb, and their friends gave to the resolutions tends to 
heighten the duplicity of the slave party as exemplified in the course 
of Yancey and Rhett. 

But if the weighty accusation made by Mr. Adams and supported 
by Mr. Hamlin and the action of members of the House in falsifying 
their positions are not conclusive evidence of the duplicity of the 
Calhoun party, its action in the Senate is final proof. Edward A. 
Hannegan, of Indiana, in a sharp retort to a Southern Democratic 
senator, told the truth about the slave party in these words: "If," 
said he, " Oregon were good enough for the production of sugar and 
cotton, it would not have encountered this opposition. Its possession 
would have been secured at once." The Senate defeated the blunt 
House resolutions by a vote of 32 to 22. An analysis of the vote 
shows that Mr. Calhoun drew away from the party, which had declared 
in its national convention that our claim in Oregon to 54 40 was 
"clear and unquestionable," six Southern senators, who, with the 
Whigs, as the conservative element, accomplished the defeat of the 
measure. The reason given by these senators was the danger of war, 
and they were supported by Mr. Webster, although in his speech he 
neither denied nor affirmed the legality of our claim. If these defect 
ing senators had stood by their party, the House resolutions would 
have passed the Senate, and all of Oregon would have been saved to 
the United States. 

The refusal of the Senate to concur in the House resolutions pro 
voked a storm of wrath in the Democratic party. A newspaper at 
Washington pointedly charged that secret caucuses were held by the 
Democratic and Whig senators, at the house of the British minister, 
for the purpose of arranging a compromise. The Senate appointed 
an investigating committee, which insisted that the editor should with 
draw his charges under penalty of exclusion from the correspondents 
galleries in both Houses of Congress. He refused, and submitted to 
the penalty rather than withdraw a charge that he believed to be true. 
But Mr. Calhoun and his supporters had won their point ; they were 
soon able to wind up the Oregon affair and stop the administration 


in its straightforward course. Resolutions couched in diplomatic lan 
guage and conciliatory in tone, authorizing the President, " at his 
discretion," to give Great Britain notice, were adopted as a substitute, 
and passed by the House through the mediation of a conference com 
mittee. This was a defeat for the House, for it was an intimation to 
Great Britain that the Senate would noUsupport the House in its 
desire to take Oregon without further negotiation. Still, it had the 
saving grace of " the glue of compromise " that the American people 
then loved so well. Trusting in the President s sincerity, most North 
ern Democrats in the House, Mr. Hamlin among them, accepted the 
substitute, as did John Quincy Adams also. The substitute was 
passed by a large majority, and Mr. Buchanan, who was secretary of 
state, negotiated a treaty with England, fixing the boundary line on 
the forty-ninth parallel. 

The recession of the House was called a disgraceful surrender by 
the satirical Whigs. But what else could be done with the conserva 
tive Whigs and Calhoun Democrats in control of the Senate ? This 
incident in our history has been generally treated from the Whig point 
of view, and the course pursued by the slave party only faintly indi 
cated. Mr. Blaine maybe quoted in illustration, on page 55 of his 
" Twenty Years of Congress : " " It is not improbable that if the 
Oregon question had been allowed to rest for the time under the pro 
visions of the treaty of 1827, the whole country would ultimately have 
fallen into our hands and the American flag might be waving to-day 
over British Columbia." But how is that theory tenable when Great 
Britain began steadily to work her way down in Oregon towards the 
Columbia after the adoption of that treaty? In 1844, the Hudson Bay 
Fur Company had erected as many as thirty settlements or outposts 
across Oregon, which were practically garrisons, and claimed territory 
below the Columbia River or nearly to the northern line of California. 
Gold was discovered in California only four years after England had 
claimed the Oregon territory, and if the boundary line had not been 
settled in 1846, the cupidity of the English government would never 
have allowed it to give up without a contest a foot of land in Oregon, 
a country that might yield it a rich harvest in the precious metal. 
Thus, in view of the discovery of gold in California, it was fortunate, 
indeed, that the Democratic party had the heart to listen to the 
prayers of the American citizen in Oregon in 1844, since a postpone 
ment of the question would more certainly have brought on a war with 
England in 1849 tnan reoccupation of Oregon in 1845, when nothing 
was known about the existence of gold on the Pacific slope. The 
Northern Democracy saved Washington and Oregon to the nation, 
opened up commerce with the East, encouraged the building of the 
Pacific Railroad, and perhaps averted greater trouble than the coun 
try incurred in 1844-45. 



THE war with Mexico broke out on April 14, 1846, the day our 
government backed down and withdrew its claim to all of Oregon. 
It was as if fate wished to emphasize the apparent victory of the slave 
power and the humiliation of the anti-slavery Democrats. As the 
annexation of Texas was the cause of the war, the events that fol 
lowed the reception of Texas into the Union seemed to be a natural 
consequence. It is useless to speculate on the course pursued by the 
Polk administration. This may have been designed to precipitate 
the outbreak of hostilities, and it may have been shaped according to 
the necessities of the times. The progress of events, however, ap 
peared to give the administration a plausible pretext for adopting 
vigorous measures that led to the conflict. Mexico had never acknow 
ledged the independence of Texas, although several foreign powers 
and the United States had recognized the Lone Star State as an in 
dependent power. When the United States took Texas into the 
Union, it therefore assumed all of Texas grievances against Mexico. 
One was a long standing quarrel over the boundary line between the 
two countries. Texas asserted that it was the Rio Grande, while 
Mexico maintained that it was the River Nueces. There were fre 
quent collisions in the disputed territory, and when Texas became a 
member of the Union her government naturally called on the admin 
istration to maintain her position. President Polk sent some troops 
under the command of General Zachary Taylor into the country of 
the Rio Grande, and their presence there infuriated the Mexicans. 
General Ampudia ordered General Taylor out of the country, and an 
encounter occurred in which several American officers and soldiers 
were killed. The news created great excitement throughout the 
United States. The cry was raised, " American blood has been shed 
on American soil." President Polk sent a message to Congress, 
declaring the existence of a state of war, and urging prompt action. 
Congress passed a bill empowering the President to call for 50,000 
volunteers, and appropriated $10,000,000 to carry on the war. 

The Mexican war threw an ominous light on the slave power, and 
also gave thinking men a clearer insight into the role, doctrines, 
and character of its leader, John C. Calhoun. He was now at 


the zenith of his power and fame. Few men have had a stronger 
moulding influence on this country than Calhoun. He had a great 
mind, an iron will, wonderful prescience, and a unique personality. 
His grim features, surmounted by stiff, bristling, gray hair, seemed 
to have been stamped by an iron process. His powers of logic and 
the purity of his private life were conceded by his opponents. But 
the one fact above all else in Calhoun s career that stands out clearly 
now is that he was the genius of the slave power. It is logical to 
conclude, therefore, that if the master mind of that party conceived 
plans, and intrusted them for execution to the organization itself, 
he was fully aware of the responsibility he assumed. When Mr. 
Calhoun stood up in the Senate, and proclaimed his opposition to 
having a war with Mexico, it was his intention to clear his skirts 
of a war and a land-grabbing conspiracy for which he more than 
any other man was responsible. He was simply stating the abstract 
proposition that he did not like war. No doubt Mr. Calhoun would 
have preferred to have Mexico of her own accord contribute a large 
slice of her domain to this country for the mere asking. No doubt 
it would have been more agreeable to confine the war within Texan 
territory ; but it was not, because it was a land-grabbing conspiracy 
to perpetuate the organization Mr. Calhoun adroitly directed. More 
over, if he had desired to avoid a war with Mexico, and had wished 
to annex Texas by peaceful means, he would never have allowed 
President Tyler in the last hour of his administration to send the 
articles of annexation to Texas without the Senate s peace-bearing 
clause. It is absurd to suppose for a moment that when Mr. Cal 
houn started the events in progress that led to the Mexican war, his 
wonderful prescience could not foresee the result. He was not in 
the Cabinet when the actual fighting began, and could apparently 
disclaim responsibility for it. 

Calhoun s complicity in the plot to betray Oregon was a natural 
and necessary sequence to the part he played in planning the Mexican 
war. In colloquial parlance, Mr. Calhoun "buncoed" the North in 
sacrificing its interests. He was the master of the Democratic con 
vention that nominated Polk on the Texas and Oregon platform. 
He kept secret his negotiations for a compromise with England until 
Polk was elected on the Oregon issue. While Mr. Calhoun pleaded 
the dangers of a conflict with England in the Oregon controversy 
as a pretext for withdrawing our claims, he pursued the opposite 
tactics in the case of Texas, and urged annexation on the ground 
that England might take Texas. He artfully stimulated the war 
scare to which Mr. Hamlin made allusion in his speech on Texas, 
by publishing his correspondence with Mr. King, our minister to 
France. Senator Hannegan was right when he charged in the Senate 


that if Oregon had been essential to the interests of the slave power, 
our claims to the entire territory would have been enforced. 

But that for which history will most severely censure Calhoun is 
his authorship of the doctrine of state sovereignty, and the terrible 
results that sprung from it. To quote from an able and dispassionate 
critic of Calhoun, who, writing of his doctrine of nullification, said : 1 
" It is not to be doubted that it sowed the seeds which in another 
generation produced the opinions that made the right of secession 
from the Union a firm political faith, which multitudes of men have 
sealed with their blood on the battlefields of a civil war." 

The Mexican war also throws more light on Mr. Hamlin s Ameri 
canism and political principles. When the crisis came Mr. Hamlin 
deeply deplored the situation ; in fact, he never ceased to regret the 
necessity of meeting Mexico on the battlefield, and said so in a speech 
he made half a century afterwards before a Grand Army reunion in 
Portland, Maine. Favoring the abstract proposition of the annexation 
of Texas, because he honestly believed that Texas had never belonged 
to Mexico, he opposed annexation under the terms and conditions 
arranged by the slave power, because they were not honorable, and 
were likely to lead to war with Mexico. But the beginning of actual 
hostilities changed the situation ; an emergency was presented that 
required prompt action. Bitterly as he regretted the necessity of 
fighting Mexico, Mr. Hamlin felt with Decatur, when he said : " My 
country, right or wrong, always my country." He held that with the 
angered Mexicans preparing to shoot down American citizens, destroy 
property, and resist American laws in American territory, a congress 
man could no more properly refuse aid to the government than a 
physician could decline assistance to a man who had brought sickness 
on himself by some act of his own folly or wickedness. He voted for 
the war bill, and firmly supported the government. Only fourteen 
members of the House, the so-called fourteen immortals, and a few 
members of the Senate opposed the war. The Whigs, as a rule, sus 
tained the government, because the nation s welfare demanded it. 
It was a trying position for Mr. Hamlin and congressmen who felt 
as he did, but they believed that they had a duty to perform, and 
however repugnant it was they discharged it. 

While Mr. Hamlin upheld the administration in its general plan of 
war, he nevertheless had his ideas about the campaigns in Mexico 
and our military establishment, which he did not hesitate to urge on 
the government. An incident of this kind that is of importance to 
this record in its personal and political significance occurred in the 
winter of 1846-47. An anomalous condition of affairs existed. With 
a successful war going on the regular army fell off in numbers to 
1 George Ticknor Curtis in the Life of Webster, vol. i. p. 449. 


10,000 men, and the administration could not recruit enough men to 
fill up the quota allowed by law, 17,000 men. The reason was it 
was more popular to enlist in the volunteer branch of the service, 
which was winning the glory of the war. The government had more 
offers than it needed for the volunteer service, but more men were 
wanted in Mexico on account of the depiction of the regular army. 
Desiring to keep the standing army up to its complement, the admin 
istration determined to try once more to obtain the necessary enlist 
ments. The Military Committee of the House prepared a bill to 
meet the wishes of the administration. This authorized the President 
to raise ten additional regiments, and as an inducement to enlist, men 
were to be allowed to choose their term of service for five years or 
for the war and were to have bounties. A feature of this measure 
that commended it to many congressmen who were looking for 
patronage to distribute among their constituents was a provision that 
the President should have the authority to name the commissioned 
officers to be appointed, some four hundred in number. 

This bill seemed assured of success. It had the support of the 
administration, it had been favorably reported by the Military Com 
mittee, and was drawn on the same lines as a bill which had passed 
the House at the preceding session. But Mr. Hamlin found the 
measure very objectionable, and decided to defeat it if he could. It 
contravened what he believed to be the correct principles of govern 
ment, and also appeared to him to be unjust to the volunteer soldier. 
When the army bill came before the House on January 4, 1847, Mr. 
Hamlin led an attack on it which placed the measure in its right light 
before Congress as an un-American, un-Democratic bill, a usurpation 
of state rights. Hence, the situation presented to the interested 
House was a Jeffersonian Democrat arraigning a Calhoun administra 
tion for abusing a principle which it professed to uphold as its car 
dinal doctrine. Taking up the bill item by item, Mr. Hamlin clearly 
established all his points. 

He argued first that the bill should be radically changed to enlist 
ten regiments in the volunteer service instead of in the regular army. 
One reason he gave was that the administration itself had informed 
Congress at its last session that an independent or volunteer corps 
was preferable to a regular army, and it was on that principle that 
Congress authorized the President to call for 50,000 volunteers. 
Another reason was that the volunteers had acquitted themselves 
with great credit, and no one had yet complained they had not real 
ized all expectations. Still another reason was that there were grave 
doubts whether ten regiments could be raised for the regular army, 
since the Secretary of War reported that only 2500 men had enlisted 
since Congress had passed the other bill for that purpose. 


Coming now to general principles, Mr. Hamlin discussed the 
abstract idea of maintaining a large standing army. A descendant of 
revolutionary stock and a sincere Jeffersonian Democrat, he was 
opposed to this. He favored a standing army only when an absolute 
necessity, as a nucleus for recruiting and drilling raw troops in an 
emergency. He believed that large standing armies were a menace 
to peace, an unnecessary source of expense, of intrigue and class dis 
tinction, and the natural props of monarchies. The essence of his 
views was that the citizens of a true republic will always volunteer to 
defend its welfare and honor. To increase the standing army with 
more volunteers ready to enter the service than were needed would 
be absolutely unnecessary. 

In view of the development of the Calhoun doctrine of state sover 
eignty into the doctrine of nullification, and the method employed by 
both the North and the South in forming their armies during the 
civil war, Mr. Hamlin s ideas of how troops should be raised in the 
Mexican war are interesting. They illustrate in their turn his creed 
of government, that the United States was a government founded by 
the people, and derived its existence from their support ; that it was 
not a compact or league of States, but that each State, while preserv 
ing the rights of autonomy, owed its allegiance to the general gov 
ernment ; that the people were bound to come to the support of the 
government in times of war through their States, which should exer 
cise their acknowledged functions in raising and equipping the troops. 
On this score, Mr. Hamlin severely criticised the war bill, because it 
infringed state rights by giving the President the appointment of the 
officers of the regiments called for. Mr. Hamlin s language makes 
his points clearer. He said : 

" I am now and always shall be in favor of restricting the executive 
patronage whenever it can be well done, and when there is no necessity 
for extending it. This I believe is the doctrine of the old Jeffersonians. 
It seems to me that there is no necessity for placing the appointments of 
four hundred officers in the hands of the Executive to be wielded for good 
or evil, as the case might be, though it be exercised with all the prudence 
the best man on earth could employ. . . . Who has complained of the 
officers of the brave volunteers ? . . . They have always led their forces. 
. . . There are other considerations I would like to dwell on. One is 
that under this bill men raised in one State would be officered by men 
from another. Would it not be expedient for these corps to officer them 
selves? . . . 

" The House may not recollect a bill introduced last session (by James 
A. Black, of South Carolina) ; but I do, for I had reason to confer with the 
gentleman who offered it. What was one of the grand features of that 
bill ? It is one too often derided, too often laughed at. It is the great and 


glorious doctrine of state rights, state pride, and state duty ; and these 
doctrines are not to be forgotten in this connection. The gentleman 
proposed to organize the several corps of militia in the Union into corps 
to be denominated legions, each State to have its own legion and its own 
colors. Well, there was something in that suggestion. When called into 
active service, if there are substantial honors to be gained, laurels to be 
reaped, the pride of each State would be roused to gather its share. This 
would tend to preserve the principle of state rights. But it is a serious 
objection to the pending bill and a serious one with myself that by 
building up this large standing army there would be a constant and 
tremendous tendency to centralization. How different it would be with 
the independent corps each impelled and directed to a common pur 
pose, and yet meeting in different places of rendezvous, respecting their 
individual rights, and contending each for the glory of its own State. 

" But how would it be with a standing army ? Why, all individuality 
would be swallowed up, and all state lines obliterated. Now that fact 
alone is sufficient to lead me to prefer a modification or change of this bill 
so that it shall be made one by which men can be enlisted as volunteers. 
. . . Let us then avoid unnecessary extension of executive patronage ; let 
us raise a volunteer corps ; let us permit the corps to be officered by men 
of their own choice, and let the officers and the men be dismissed simulta 
neously. With these provisions attached, the bill will receive my hearty 
cooperation and support." 

Mr. Hamlin planned his attack on the army bill with the assistance 
of his friend, George Rathbun, who introduced a substitute for the 
original measure embracing Mr. Hamlin s ideas. This the House 
accepted, by a vote of 98 to 96, in preference to the bill offered by 
the Military Committee. The Senate concurring, the new troops 
were raised as volunteers, and commanded by officers commissioned 
by the States. The government has not since departed from these 
principles. It is an interesting fact, too, that the Union armies 
raised during the civil war were formed in about the same way Mr. 
Hamlin advocated in his speech on the army bill in 1846. 

An incident happened during the Mexican war that Mr. Hamlin 
related with keen pleasure as an illustration of the kind of volunteer 
soldiers Maine produced. Major C. N. Bodfish, of Bath, a personal 
friend of Mr. Hamlin s, was one of the leading lumbermen of the 
State, and was noted for his practical ways in overcoming obstacles. 
The division he was attached to in the Mexican war came one day 
to a wide river, flowing between lofty and precipitous banks. The 
corps of trained civil engineers belonging to the division gave it as 
their opinion that they could not transport the army across the river 
in less than a week. When Major Bodfish heard this decision, he was 
disgusted, and, after making an examination of the river s banks, he 
asserted that he could transport the army inside of forty-eight hours. 


Knowing Major Bodfish s reputation, the commanding officers ordered 
him to go to work on the problem upon which the engineers were 
figuring. He detailed a large body of men, working in relays, to dig 
a path, in a diagonal direction, down the bank on which the army was 
camped, to the river, which he bridged over with pontoons ; and 
while the army was defiling down the first path and over the bridge, 
other men cut a diagonal path up the second bank. The army was 
transported within the time Major Bodfish stipulated, and the inci 
dent became famous. After the war had closed, Mr. Hamlin related 
the story to the President, who, at his request, appointed Bodfish 
collector of customs at Bath. 

Mr. Hamlin continued to follow closely the details of the Mexican 
war. On one occasion he was brought in opposition to the dominant 
forces in the House, when he did not succeed in carrying his point. 
The incident evidences the petty and arrogant spirit of the slave 
party in small things. Daniel Putnam King was one of the fourteen 
Whigs who voted against the war bill in the House. For this rea 
son the slave party in the House did not treat him at times with 
the courtesy his high character deserved. At this session of Con 
gress, Mr. King presented a memorial from the Society of Friends 
of New England praying that measures might be adopted to put an 
end to the war. Mr. King moved that the memorial be referred to 
the proper committee and printed. A curious objection sprung up 
to this motion. One Southern member protested against the printing 
of the memorial because it was presented by Quakers, who were always 
in favor of peace ; another, because it was a private affair, and would 
involve the spending of public money. 

These and other petty subterfuges disgusted Mr. Hamlin, and he 
made a few remarks which expressed his ideas of toleration and 
courtesy towards an honorable opponent. He argued as Mr. King 
did, that the memorial should be printed, because it came from a re 
spectable body of nine or ten thousand people living in New England. 
The paper was short and respectful, and by printing it the House 
neither indorsed nor contradicted its sentiments. " This memorial," 
Mr. Hamlin continued, "may deny the justice of the war, and yet I, 
who am one of the firmest and most decided supporters of the war, 
am, disposed to print it. To refuse might look like shrinking from 
the freest investigation of the subject, and the fullest expression of 
public sentiment in regard to it. I am in no wise disposed to do 
either." But the House was in a particularly intolerant mood, and 
rejected Mr. King s resolution by a vote of 77 to 65. l 

Although the Mexican war, in its political aspect, is a discreditable 
page in the history of our government, yet, as a feat of arms, it 
1 Congressional Globe, December 29, 1846. 


reflected credit on the military prowess of the young nation, and won 
it more respect among the nations of the Old World. The victories 
our arms gained at Vera Cruz, Buena Vista, Chapultepec, Churubusco, 
and other Mexican strongholds now read like romances. The Mexi 
cans were brave, and greatly outnumbered our men ; but they were 
inadequately equipped, badly officered, and" divided by internal politi 
cal dissensions. On the other hand, it is doubtful if there ever was 
a more efficient army for its numbers than the one that won the 
Mexican war. The men were mostly volunteers the flower of 
American citizenship. They were young, unusually intelligent, brave 
unto rashness, and fired with ambition. They were commanded by 
Scott and Taylor, two of the best generals of their times, who had 
among their subordinates Grant, Sherman, Hancock, Hooker, Kearny, 
McClellan, Lee, Jackson, Johnston, Longstreet, and others whose 
names are now among the military geniuses of the age. In another 
respect, the Mexican war is of personal interest to these pages, since 
it gave Mr. Hamlin experience that enabled him to render practical 
aid to the Committee on the Conduct of the War when he was the 
war Vice-President. 



MR. HAMLIN S antagonism to slavery during his first three years* 
service in the House had a far-reaching effect in Maine, and the nar 
rative now turns to the political situation in the Pine Tree State. 
When the slave power betrayed its plan to nationalize slavery by 
annexing Texas, the people of Maine, like those of other free States, 
were aroused from their passive attitude towards the peculiar institu 
tion. At first the slavery question was not a burning issue, but 
served in the beginning as an opening wedge in splitting the old 
parties asunder. The line of cleavage in the Democracy of Maine 
was indicated first by the development of two wings, one called the 
Free-Soilers, the other the Wild-Cats. As events progressed, the 
Free-Soilers were filled with foreboding over the increasing demands 
of the slave power and the attempts it made to suppress free speech, 
the persecution of anti-slavery people, the killing of Jonathan Cilley, 
and the red-handed murder of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, also a son of 
Maine. All these things, and others, revealed the temper of the slave 
power in its sinister light to the liberty-loving people of that State. 
Mr. Hamlin s continued fight against the slave party on the floor 
of the House, his denunciation of slavery, in Pinckney s words, as "an 
evil that blighted all it touched," his attacks on dueling, his resist 
ance to the annexation of Texas as a slave State and to the betrayal 
of Oregon, all these acts warmed the anti-slavery Democrats of 
Maine towards Mr. Hamlin, and although he was only thirty-six years 
old, they rallied around him in greater numbers than ever, and in the 
fall of 1845 brought him forward as their candidate for the United 
States Senate. Then followed one of the most exciting and interest 
ing elections in the history of the State. It is of peculiar importance 
to this record, since it throws a strong light on Mr. Hamlin in one of 
the most trying struggles of his life, and also because it marks the 
beginning of the efforts of the slave power to dominate the Demo 
cratic party in Maine. Mr. Hamlin s success in his fight with the 
slave power at home was perhaps his best political work. His defeat 
in 1846 was a preparation for this long struggle. The contest he 
waged with the slave power this time lasted six weeks. The result 


hung on the turn of a single vote. 1 If Mr. Hamlin had agreed to 
modify his opposition to slavery, he might have been elected. He 

But to understand this contest in all its phases, it is necessary first 
fully to understand the political status of the slavery question in Maine. 
When slavery began to force its way into* politics as an issue, men 
began to array themselves on either side according to their convic 
tions, interests, and natures. Although the senatorial election of 1 846 
was in the main a square fight between the anti-slavery and the pro- 
slavery factions of the Democracy of the Pine Tree State, yet it would 
not be right or just to rank all of Mr. Hamlin s opponents as pro- 
slavery men, as the term is now understood. There were many good 
men in the country at this time who, while personally abhorring sla 
very, nevertheless felt that it had a constitutional status which could 
not be assailed without assailing the Constitution itself. It is neces 
sary to emphasize this fact, that the positions of many may be justly 
understood, who subsequently saw their error, and fought the uphold 
ers of slavery on the field of battle. George F. Shepley, for many 
years a distinguished judge of the United States Circuit Court, was 
one of the most conspicuous Democrats of this class who first fought 
Mr. Hamlin because they thought he was too radical on the slavery 
question, but afterwards joined hands with him in the real crisis. 
There were other conservative Democratic leaders in Maine at this 
time, such as Hugh J. Anderson, who was governor of the State, and 
as a strong party man accepted the policy of his party and opposed 
Mr. Hamlin. He was also ambitious to go to the Senate himself. 
Then there was a non-political element which instinctively arrayed 
itself against Mr. Hamlin because he was of a radical nature. The 
members of this feared a change, and they saw in Mr. Hamlin s 
aggressive leadership dangers that they thought the country could 
avoid by pinning its faith to the Constitution. Strange as it may 
seem, at this time slavery had supporters among the colleges and 
churches in Maine. Among these men were Rev. Dr. Leonard 
Woods, president of Bowdoin College from 1833 to 1866, and the 
Rev. John O. Fiske, of Bath. 

But there was also an aggressive pro-slavery party in the Maine 
Democracy at this period, and it strengthened itself by drawing on 
the national administration for support. As the administration had 

1 Mr. Hamlin wrote Leander Valentine, of Westbrook, on March 2, 1848 : " I 
was nominated some half a dozen times in the House, receiving about two thirds 
or three fourths of the whole party, perhaps the largest majority ever given in the 
popular branch in the legislature. Three times I came within one vote of a 
nomination in the Senate, once receiving just one half. But two or three Mor 
mons (pro-slavery men) prevented me from getting that one vote necessary." 


developed a distinctively pro-slavery policy under Secretary Calhoun, 
it is hardly necessary to add that it filled the offices with its friends. 
Of this party Nathan Clifford, afterwards United States attorney- 
general and associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, was the most prominent leader. Mr. Clifford was a man of 
great industry and unbounded ambition. He had already served in 
the national House of Representatives, was a personal friend of Presi 
dent Polk, and desirous of promoting his fortunes. His ambition was 
soon gratified, and he was taken into Mr. Folk s Cabinet, where he 
exercised a considerable control over the federal patronage in Maine. 
There were other leaders in this faction, who, while they were of less 
repute than Judge Clifford, were none the less men of decided politi 
cal ability. One was Wyman B. S. Moor, who was several times 
attorney-general of Maine, a member of the United States Senate 
for a short time, and afterwards United States consul-general to the 
British-American Provinces. Another was Bion Bradbury, of East- 
port, a man of talent and address, who for many years was one of the 
most skillful managers of the Democratic party of Maine. A third 
was Shepard Cary, of Houlton, who served a term in the House and 
exerted considerable influence in his party. A fourth was Benjamin 
Wiggin, of Bangor, a smooth wire-puller ; and a fifth was Leonard 
Jones, proprietor of the " Bangor Democrat," the leading party news 
paper in Mr. Hamlin s congressional district. 

In the beginning of the canvass Mr. Hamlin and his supporters had 
easily the best of it. They carried the majority of the caucuses in 
the summer of 1845, at which the Democratic candidates for the legis 
lature were chosen, and nominated men who pledged themselves to 
vote for Mr. Hamlin when his name came before the legislature. 
The Democrats carried the State at the September election, and Mr. 
Hamlin s friends confidently counted on his elevation to the Senate. 
He probably would have been chosen had the legislature met shortly 
after the state election, but it did not convene until the spring of 1 846, 
and in the interim the opposition relaxed no effort to turn every little 
advantage to account. Mr. Hamlin, on the other hand, was at this 
time in the thick of the fight at Washington against the plot to betray 
Oregon. He knew, of course, that in the beginning of his candidacy 
for the Senate his anti-slavery course would be used as an argument 
against him. Indeed, he was told by his enemies that they would 
defeat him if they could, because he was an anti-slavery man ; he was 
also urged by well-meaning friends to modify his course. His most 
substantial reply to his enemies and timid counselors was his speech 
on the Oregon matter, and it is therefore to be considered in one 
sense as a measured expression of his anti-slavery convictions. 

In spite of the fact that the party machine led by the governor was 


against Mr. Hamlin, his friends were confident of his success, because 
the people of the State were for him, in preference to a pro-slavery 
man. As the time for the convening of the legislature drew near, Mr. 
Hamlin s opponents, both the avowed pro-slavery men and the conser 
vative element, concentrated their forces in a movement to nominate 
Governor Anderson as the most available man they could present 
against Mr. Hamlin. Mr. Anderson was a popular man personally and 
a shrewd politician, but the fact that he was supported by men who 
believed in slavery, and were opposed to the principles of the Wilmot 
Proviso, was sufficient to defeat him. He was out of the race at the 
start, but certain unscrupulous pro-slavery members of the legislature, 
who did not propose to respect the will of the majority of their party, 
made use of Governor Anderson s name. When the legislature as 
sembled in May, 1846, it was generally believed that Mr. Hamlin 
would be nominated by his party. He had a large majority assured 
him in the House, and while there were some doubts about the 
Senate, there was no question that he was the choice of the majority 
members of the legislature, and his party could be defeated only by 
unfair tactics. 

There was only one way in which this could be done, and that was 
by bringing about a deadlock. Circumstances conspired to favor this 
plot. It was the custom then for each House to make its own nomi 
nation for senator in a separate caucus, instead of meeting in a joint 
assembly as they do now. Thus if the two Houses did not agree, a 
deadlock was sure to follow, when a small minority could dictate terms 
to the majority. If any man had predicted on the opening of the 
legislature that a plot of this kind had been planned, and that it would 
be carried out, he would have been laughed to scorn ; nevertheless, a 
small number of bitter pro-slavery men who had been elected to the 
Senate were working desperately, when the legislature came together, 
to bring about a deadlock, and thus block Mr. Hamlin s election. 
They found that they could succeed only by breaking pledges made to 
their constituents to support Mr. Hamlin, and by resorting to ques 
tionable tactics. They were equal to this sort of work, and were 
therefore responsible for the success of the slave party in the Maine 
Senate election of 1846. 

While the machine was working against Mr. Hamlin, he neverthe 
less had strong friends in the state government and the legislature, 
who had served their political novitiate, and who under ordinary con 
ditions could have carried the day for him. Prominent among these 
men were Ezra B. French, secretary of state, and Alfred Reddington, 
adjutant-general. In the Senate were General John J. Perry, Alpheus 
S. Holden, Elisha M. Thurston, Asa Smith, Joseph S. Monroe, John 
H. Pillsbury, Charles G. Bellamy, Benjamin F. Mason, Randall Skil- 


lin, Rufus Porter, Joseph Berry, Henry Barnes ; in the House were 
Hugh D. McClellan, Atwood Levensaler, Sylvanus T. Kinks, Horatio 
G. Russ, Hiram Ruggles, Thomas H. Norcross, Lyndon Oak, Ben 
jamin B. Thomas, John Gardner, and the Rev. Ebenezer Knowlton, 
the Speaker. The testimony of Mr. Hamlin s friends in this contest 
is interesting, and no one is better qualified to speak than General 
Perry, an Oxford County man, a lifelong friend of Mr. Hamlin s, and 
whose personal character and services to the State as a legislator 
and congressman render him a reliable witness. General Perry read 
an address before the Maine Historical Society, at Portland, in which 
he said : " The defeat of Mr. Hamlin, by the legislature of 1 846, 
was the result of one of the most corrupt bargains that ever dis 
graced any legislature." At another time, General Perry gave the 
details. 1 One point, however, must be explained before quoting him. 
The custom had not yet been established of holding a joint caucus 
in the legislature to make nominations for senator, but each house 
made its own nomination and balloted independently of the other. 
This circumstance gave Mr. Hamlin s enemies their first opportunity 
to make a stand against him in the Senate. Had the nomination 
been made by a joint caucus, Mr. Hamlin would have been chosen 
by a large majority. To quote General Perry : 

" A canvass of the Democratic members of the House soon settled the 
fact that Mr. Hamlin would be the nominee of that body, and his friends 
had the best of reasons for believing that he would be nominated in the 
Senate caucus also. But subsequently there appeared to be some uncer 
tainty about the Senate ; it was developed that Mr. Hamlin had some bitter 
personal enemies in that branch of the legislature who would not hesitate 
to use any means within their power to defeat him. We found that they 
had been working day and night to accomplish this, and not meeting with 
the encouragement they had expected were at one time ready to abandon 
the fight. But they received reinforcements from a body of Wild-Cats 
who came over to the Capitol, and it was announced that Mr. Hamlin would 
be defeated in the Senate caucus. The House had its caucus on May 28, 
and Mr. Hamlin was nominated by a handsome majority, receiving 44 
votes to 29 for Governor Anderson and a few for other candidates. The 
result was announced to the Senate before it voted, but even in spite of this 
demonstration of Mr. Hamlin s popularity with his party, in spite of the 
fact that a majority of the Senate had been nominated under the suppo 
sition that they were Mr. Hamlin s friends, the Senate, after twelve ballots, 
nominated Governor Anderson, the pro-slavery candidate. He received 
14 votes and Mr. Hamlin n. On the last ballot, the supporters of the 
minor candidates combined on Mr. Anderson ; it was * anything to beat 
Hamlin. " 

The next day the situation remained unchanged ; each house stuck 
1 Letter to the author. 


to its candidate. A week was passed without an election, and then 
the news of the deadlock spread over the State. When it became 
evident that a plot had been formed by pro-slavery men in the Senate 
to defeat Mr. Hamlin on account of his anti-slavery record, the great 
est indignation prevailed among the Free- Soil Democrats. They 
brought great pressure to bear upon several" recalcitrant senators, but 
without avail. Charges of broken pledges and plain warnings that 
the delinquent would be punished by peremptory retirement from the 
Senate by their constituents had no effect. The slave power was in 
an ugly mood, and proposed to punish Mr. Hamlin for defying it. 
Compromising stories about corruption were next heard in explana 
tion of the course several senators were pursuing, regardless of their 
instructions and the wishes of the people who had elected them, but 
nothing could be proved, and the long fight went on week after week, 
Mr. Hamlin s friends clinging to him with a pertinacity worthy of the 
cause, and the slave party in the Senate sticking to its candidate with 
a zeal worthy of a better cause. Again and again the slave party 
presented a new candidate, but at every House caucus Mr. Hamlin 
was put forward as the candidate of the Free -Soil Democrats of 
Maine. Mr. Hamlin s timid friends tried once more to urge him to 
listen to suggestions of compromise, but he firmly and emphatically 
refused to modify his opposition to slavery, or to entertain any offer 
of compromise from his enemies in the Senate. He continued his 
course in Congress, apparently undisturbed by the unexpected hap 
penings at Augusta, When a change of one vote would have elected 
him at one time, if he had given assurance that he would be less 
pronounced in his attitude towards slavery, he remained as grimly 
opposed to the slave power as ever before. 

The contest dragged on for six weeks without an election. Mr. 
Hamlin s friends were morally sure that corrupt means had been 
employed to block his election, and they hated to yield ; but Mr. 
Hamlin, a few days before the time for adjournment arrived, decided 
not to prolong the contest further, because he did not wish the State 
to go unrepresented. He therefore wrote a letter to his friends, 
advising them to withdraw his name in favor of James W. Bradbury, 
of Augusta, who professed to be friendly to Mr. Hamlin. They did 
it with great reluctance, and the legislature finally elected Mr. Brad 
bury, who held conservative views on the slavery question, and whose 
selection was therefore regarded as a drawn battle between the two 
wings of the Democratic party. 

Immediately after the election of Mr. Bradbury had been declared, 
an episode occurred that General Perry relates as follows : " About 
a week before the legislature adjourned, Stephen H. Chase, of Frye- 
burg, who was president of the Senate, resigned the presidency, and 


David Dunn, of Poland, was elected to fill the vacancy. Chase was 
bitterly opposed to Mr. Hamlin, and voted against him, although he 
came from Oxford County, Mr. Hamlin s old home, where three 
fourths of the Democrats wanted Mr. Hamlin elected. Dunn was 
supposed to be Mr. Hamlin s friend, until the final test came. This 
incident has never been explained, and is recited without comment. 
There were other senators also who betrayed the wishes of their con 
stituents. Some of the senators who betrayed their constituency by 
opposing Mr. Hamlin were not met on their return home with shouts 
of applause and bands of music/ but were invited to political graves 
which know no resurrection. Chase, 1 for example, was retired from 
the Senate the next year before a withering fire of denunciation, while 
I, who was one of the other senators from Oxford County and Mr. 
Hamlin s friend, was unanimously renominated and reflected by an 
increased majority, two convincing circumstances which show what 
the Democrats of Oxford County thought about the defeat of Mr. 
Hamlin. But I should add that the people of Maine took Mr. Hamlin 
into their own hands, and thereafter sent him to the United States 
Senate as long as he was willing to remain there." 

If either Chase or Dunn had kept his pledges or respected the 
wishes of his party, obviously Mr. Hamlin would have been elected. 
This and other circumstances escaped the chroniclers of the times. 
The newspaper press was but an infant in those days. Years after 
wards, when this defeat had lost its sting, and men who had opposed 
Mr. Hamlin had acknowledged their mistake and joined hands with 
him in fighting the enemy, an amusing circumstance came out in con 
nection with the contest of 1846 that tended to place it in a somewhat 
humorous light. One vote in the Senate was diverted from Mr. Ham 
lin, not on account of his opposition to slavery, but on account of a 
personal grievance which one member held against him, but which, 
however serious to the senator, is an amusing illustration of how little 
things may control the course of events. " Misfortunes do not come 
singly." Mr. Hamlin happened to have an enemy in the Senate, whose 
hostility he had innocently incurred in an accident, the story of which, 
as related by him on the occasion of a legislative reunion at Augusta, 
nearly forty years afterwards, may be instructive to young politicians. 
As has been said, Mr. Hamlin in his early life was something of a 
"practical joker." He enjoyed a little harmless fun even at his own 
expense, but he did not dream one day, when an amusing idea popped 
into his head, that the execution of it would cost him an election to 
the United States Senate. While he was serving as speaker of the 
House some eight or ten years previous to this time, there was a 

1 Chase afterwards sought the Democratic nomination for Congress in his dis 
trict. He was defeated by the anti-slavery men, and left the State. 


member who prided himself on his faultless personal appearance. He 
was growing bald and was very sensitive about it. To conceal this 
approaching calamity, he was in the habit of using bandoline and other 
preparations to keep each hair in its proper place. One day, while sit 
ting in the speaker s chair, Mr. Hamlin, who was in a particularly 
happy mood, happened to cast his eye on tkis man s carefully dressed 
hair, and not knowing his peculiarity for he would not purposely 
have offended the old gentleman for the world Mr. Hamlin beck 
oned to him, shaking with repressed laughter at the same time- 
Full of importance at being summoned by the Speaker to his chair in 
the presence of the House, this member marched pompously up to 
Mr. Hamlin, who smilingly whispered : 

" Old fellow, I just wanted to tell you that you had got one of your 
hairs crossed over the other." 

Had the Speaker suddenly slapped the representative in the face, 
he could not have angered the sensitive man more than he did by play 
ing this little joke on him. His face turned red with fury, and he 
spluttered : " You insult me, sir ; you insult me ! " He marched to 
his desk in a state of great indignation. Mr. Hamlin was profuse in 
his apologies, but the irate man cherished the fancied insult for nearly 
ten years in the hopes of avenging himself. In 1846 the opportunity 
came. He was elected to the state Senate, where he joined the pro- 
slavery men, and with great satisfaction wiped out the insult to his 
hair. What aggravated the offense was the fact that he was elected 
to the Senate, pledged to vote for Mr. Hamlin. When the York 
County Democrats held their convention to nominate a candidate for 
the state Senate in the fall of 1845, the subject of Mr. Hamlin s inno 
cent joke sought the honor. Learning of his candidacy and knowing 
that he still nursed some feelings of resentment towards Mr. Hamlin, 
the latter s friends suspected that he might prove an unsafe man to 
send to the state Senate. They were in control of the convention, 
and to guard against any misunderstanding as to his position, they 
called on him to state in the convention who was his choice for United 
States senator. He took the floor and declared that if Mr. Hamlin 
should be a candidate before the legislature, he would vote for him 
in accordance with the wishes of the convention. Rome was once, 
saved from capture by the hiss of a goose. That was a narrow 
escape. In political annals it could be paralleled only by the escape 
of the slave power of Maine from defeat in 1846 by a hair. But this 
contest only nerved the Free-Soil Democrats of Maine to greater 
effort two years later, when their battle was renewed, and that time 
there was no slip between cup and lip. 



ONE of the most important measures connected with the cause of 
freedom in ante-bellum days was the Wilmot Proviso. In one respect 
this proviso operated like the gag-law ; although framed for a different 
purpose, it compelled the parties and public men of the day to divide 
in opposition to, or in support of, the slave power. Again, like the 
gag-law, the Wilmot Proviso became a tremendous weapon in the 
hands of the anti-slavery men in fighting their foe. Although they 
lost the preliminary battle, they won a greater victory in the end : 
the Wilmot Proviso aroused the free States and caused them, slowly 
at first, it is true, to join hands against the slave power. The Wilmot 
Proviso may be called the first plank of the young Republican party, 
which was gradually evolving from the free-soil elements that united 
in support of this measure. The Wilmot Proviso is of both historic 
and personal interest to these records, and the complete story of how 
this famous measure happened to be devised and presented is now 
related in its entirety for the first time, in order that all the chief 
actors in the drama may have their just share of credit. Although 
the proviso goes down in history bearing the name of its presenter, 
David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, yet, without desiring to detract from 
Mr. Wilmot s well earned reputation, it must be stated that the facts 
show that Jacob Brinkerhoff, of Ohio, is entitled to the credit for 
originally drafting the proviso, and that Hannibal Hamlin is also en 
titled to the distinction of bringing the measure to a final issue against 
the slave party in Congress. 

The proviso was a moral result of the Mexican war. When it 
became evident that the Mexicans were willing to listen to negotia 
tions for peace, President Polk asked Congress for an appropriation 
of $2,000,000, to bring the war to an end, the understanding being 
that the United States should indemnify Mexico for land that the 
government should take. As the Mexican troops were occupying 
California and New Mexico, it was certain that this territory would 
be acquired, and the anti-slavery men were considering among them 
selves ways and means for preventing the slave power from using 
this territory for its purposes, when the so-called Two Million Dollar 
Bill was introduced in the House. The idea of excluding slavery 


from the territory to be conquered and purchased from Mexico had 
occurred to many anti-slavery members of Congress. Mr. Hamlin, 
Judge Brinkerhoff, Mr. Wilmot, Preston King, George Rathbun, 
Martin Grover, of New York, Paul Dillingham, Jr., of Vermont, and 
others of the anti-slavery Democrats, had already discussed at their 
," messes," and in their conferences in the Ifbuse, the possibilities of 
such a move by the slave power as was made in the presentation of 
the Two Million Dollar Bill, but no definite line of action was decided 
upon. When the bill was read, on August 8, 1846, the House was in 
committee. Brinkerhoff was quick to see that the time for action had 
come, and so were his friends, too. In the incident that then occurred, 
there were several men who took part, each of whom might have said 
afterwards that he had a narrow escape from lasting fame. 

The Two Million Dollar Bill had been referred to a committee, and 
while it was considering the measure, Judge Brinkerhoff sat down at 
his desk, and, to use his own words in a letter to Henry Wilson, 
April 4, 1868, he "drew up the proviso in the exact language in 
which it now appears on page 1283 of the (congressional) Journal." 1 
The proviso embodied the language of the Ordinance of 1787, pro 
hibiting slavery in the territory northwest of the Ohio, and followed 
it as exactly as Judge Brinkerhoff could recall it. Looking over the 
House, he saw Samuel F. Vinton, the leader of the Whigs, and an 
anti-slavery man. He showed the draft of the proviso to Vinton, 
who read it, and asked if the members on the Democratic side of the 
House would support it. Judge Brinkerhoff answered that some 
would. Mr. Vinton advised him to be on the alert, to get the floor 
and offer the proviso. Judge Brinkerhoff replied : " No, I am sus 
pected, and the floor will probably not be awarded to me. Wilmot 
is the favorite of the Southern members, and he can get the floor 
when I cannot ; and he is all right I know, for I have talked with 
him ; he is the man." 

Vinton promised Brinkerhoff that he would rally the Northern 
Whigs to the support of the proviso, and the latter turned in search 
of his Democratic friends. Just at this time Mr. Hamlin, John P. 
Hale, Preston King, George Rathbun, Martin Grover, Timothy Jen 
kins, Paul Dillingham, Jr., and others had formed a group, and were 
holding an excited conversation. As Mr. Brinkerhoff approached 
several members of the group, Mr. Hamlin, Mr. King, Mr. Grover, 
among them, passed him amendments to the bill similar in character 
to the proviso he had written, which shows that all these men had 
acted under the same impulses. He immediately read his proviso, 
and Mr. Hamlin said at once, "That s the best yet, because it s the 
shortest," and there were assents of "Yes, that s so." When Mr. 
Brinkerhoff added that he had asked Mr. Wilmot to introduce the 


bill, since he was popular with the Southern members on account of 
his free-trade ideas, there was a chorus of approval. Further action 
was taken before the group dissolved, which shows the annoying diffi 
culties the anti-slavery members of Congress had to cope with. Obvi 
ously to accomplish anything in the way of legislation, it was neces 
sary for a member of the House to get the floor. As the House 
was controlled by the slave power, it was not easy for an anti-slavery 
member to obtain the Speaker s recognition, in a great emergency 
that involved the interest of the slave party. To meet any contin 
gency of this kind that might arise from the presentation of the Two 
Million Dollar Bill, Mr. Hamlin and his friends agreed among them 
selves that they would all, ten or twelve in number, try to get the 
floor as soon as the bill was reported, with the understanding that if 
one other than Wilmot should succeed, he should yield to Wilmot. 
The wisdom in choosing Wilmot to present the proviso was vindi 
cated. Out of the ten or a dozen anti-slavery men who sought the 
floor when the Two Million Dollar Bill was reported, Wilmot was 
recognized by the presiding officer of the House. 

In well chosen words, Mr. Wilmot offered the proviso, which briefly 
declared it to be " an express and fundamental condition to the acqui 
sition of any territory from Mexico, that neither slavery or involuntary 
servitude should ever exist therein." The proviso was presented 
when the House was still sitting in the committee of the whole, and 
as the slave party was completely taken by surprise, it was passed 
by a vote of 83 to 64. Unfortunately, there is no individual record 
of the vote. When the proviso a few minutes later was brought be 
fore the House, after the committee of the whole had risen, once 
more the anti- slavery men triumphed, but by the close vote of 85 to 
79. The slave party had made a desperate but unsuccessful rally. 
Some votes were changed, but each side rallied recruits and increased 
its vote. It was an ominous division ; it was practically a solid free 
North, against a solid slave South. Only two Southern men voted 
for the proviso : Henry Grider and William P. Thomasson, of Ken 
tucky, both of whom remained consistent opponents of slavery until 
the contest was ended by its downfall. Of the few Northern mem 
bers who opposed the proviso, the strangest case was that of Samuel 
F. Vinton. He had pledged his support to Judge Brinkerhoff, and the 
records give no reason for his change of position. Yet it is only just 
to Mr. Vinton to add that he subsequently voted for the proviso when 
it was presented by Mr. Hamlin. The circumstance is alluded to only 
to give a clearer idea of the discouraging difficulties the anti-slavery 
men met, even in the ranks of their friends. Stephen A. Douglas, 
who was now currying the favor of the South, and his two henchmen, 
John A. McClernand, and Orlando B. Ficklin, also voted with their 


Southern colleagues. The Two Million Dollar Bill, with the Wilmot 
Proviso attached, next went to the Senate, where John Davis, of Mas 
sachusetts, prevented action by holding the floor, by speaking against 
time, until the session expired. Mr. Davis s motives were misunder 
stood at the time. He felt certain that the Senate would defeat the 
proviso if it came to a vote, and he thougnt that if he prevented a 
vote the country would discuss the proviso during the interim, and 
create a sentiment in its favor Congress would not dare to resist. 

Congress adjourned under these circumstances, and during the 
summer and fall of 1846 the Wilmot Proviso became the most widely 
discussed topic of the time. When Congress reconvened in Decem 
ber, the friends and supporters of the proviso had to shape their 
action according to the course pursued by the administration. Soon 
a bill was framed appropriating $3,000,000 to end the war, and it 
was arranged to close all debate on this bill at the hour of noon on 
February 15, 1847. Wilmot was again selected to present the pro 
viso, and on the day for action both sides prepared for a desperate 
struggle. The slave party, having had one unpleasant experience 
with the proviso, laid plans to defeat it that were worthy of Indian 
warfare. When the Three Million Dollar Bill was reported by the 
committee that had it in charge, the House was again sitting in 
the committee of the whole, and the slave party managed to keep the 
bill back until fifteen minutes of twelve o clock with the intention of 
rushing it through the House while in committee, so that no oppor 
tunity could be given to present the proviso. Furthermore, steps 
were secretly taken to prevent Mr. Wilmot from being present in the 
House before noon. 

It was a cunningly contrived plot, and the details and unfolding of 
the conspiracy demonstrate how desperate the slave party was. The 
anti-slavery men of the House, on the other hand, were as determined 
to win as their opponents, and had planned to meet certain contin 
gencies, although they had not expected to encounter downright dis 
honorable tactics. At Mr. Hamlin s suggestion, they had substituted 
another proviso for the one drawn up by Judge Brinkerhoff, which 
read as follows: "There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary 
servitude in any territory on the continent of America which shall 
hereafter be acquired by or annexed to the United States by virtue 
of this appropriation (the $3,000,000), or in any other manner what 
ever, except for crime whereof the party shall have been duly con 
victed," etc. This substitute was thought more fully to embody the 
principles for which the anti-slavery men were contending than the 
original proviso which Judge Brinkerhoff had drawn up in a hurry. 
All the leaders among the supporters of the proviso took copies and 
prepared in other respects for the coming contest. 


The moment the committee reported the Three Million Dollar Bill, 
Mr. Hamlin, Judge Brinkerhoff, and the other anti-slavery Democrats 
in the secret looked round for Wilmot. To their surprise he was 
nowhere to be seen. Another writer describes the scene : 

" Now is the time ! Where is Wilmot ? Where is Wilmot ? was 
anxiously whispered by one and another of the anti-slavery men. But 
to the question, Where is Wilmot ? no man could give a response. 
The supreme moment had come, and the chief actor in what had 
long been anticipated as a great scene was not at his post. 

" Run into the cloak-rooms ! cried Preston King. Search for 
him in the lobbies/ said Rathbun. 

" But none of these suggestions resulted as was hoped Wilmot 
was nowhere to be found. The anti-slavery men were in the direst 
confusion, Hannibal Hamlin alone being entirely calm and col 
lected." 1 

In the mean time the pro-slavery men, perceiving the confusion of 
their opponents, resorted to parliamentary tactics to prevent the 
offering of the Wilmot Proviso by any one. Dromgoole, the leader 
of the slavery forces, claimed that the time for debate had expired, 
and that the time for action had arrived. When the chair overruled 
him, he talked about raising the question of order on the Wilmot 
Proviso, and insisted that if overruled he should attempt to show 
that the proviso contemplated the exercise of a power not granted by 
the Constitution. "The Wilmot Proviso," said Mr. Dromgoole, "is 
an arrogant assumption of power ; it represents a pernicious tendency, 
and is calculated to produce confusion and discord in the Democratic 

Preston King tried to offer the proviso, but a heated discussion 
arose which produced an uproar. The chairman had to suspend all 
proceedings several times until order could be restored. Mr. Hamlin 
and his friends in the mean time held a hurried conference, and the 
proviso was intrusted to Mr. Hamlin s hands. Watching his oppor 
tunity, Mr. Hamlin, when there was a sudden subsidence of the con 
fusion, quickly took the floor and moved the adoption of the proviso 
as an amendment to the Three Million Dollar Bill. Immediately 
Dromgoole raised a point of order, but Mr. Hamlin met that difficulty 
by promptly revising his motion on the lines Dromgoole claimed that 
it should be framed. John A. McClernand, who had continued his 
opposition to the proviso, came to Mr. Dromgoole s aid with a flank 
movement. He insisted, possibly to gain time for the slave party, 
that he had been entitled to the floor, and when he was overruled, he 
took an appeal from the decision of the chair, which caused another 
uproar. W r hen this subsided, Mr. Hamlin grimly insisted again that 
1 Carroll s Twelve Americans. 


the Wilmot Proviso should be accepted, and McClernand reluctantly 
yielded the floor to him. Mr. Hamlin read the measure as he had 
redrafted it. The fertile Dromgoole rose to a point of order, and 
claimed that Mr. Hamlin s amendment was out of order on the 
ground of irrelevancy, and when he was overruled once more, the pro- 
slavery men appealed from the decision, *to be beaten. Until this 
time, Stephen A. Douglas had remained quiet, but now he emerged, 
and, true to his calculating nature and ideas of expediency, presented 
a compromise amendment which would bring the territory to be ac 
quired into the Union under the conditions of the Missouri act of 
1820. But the anti-slavery men were not deluded this time, and they 
voted the Douglas amendment down, and also another framed on 
about the same lines. And now Mr. Hamlin s amendment came to 
a vote. The tellers rapidly polled the House, and the anti-slavery 
men cheered with joy when the result was announced. The proviso 
was adopted by a vote of 1 10 to 89. 

The next thing in order was for the committee to rise, and the 
House to reorganize itself to act upon the bill. Thus, the proviso 
was again voted upon, and was adopted by a vote of 115 to 106. 

The following scene is described by another writer : 

" While the roll call was in progress, David Wilmot stout and 
unwieldy of form, out of breath, and perspiring at every pore rushed 
into the chamber. 

" There he is, there he is, the traitor ! cried half a dozen of 

those who had been his warm friends. To them Mr. Hamlin said 
quietly : ( Don t be in a hurry, gentlemen ; don t condemn him with 
out a hearing. Let us see how he votes. 

" At that moment the clerk called, Mr. Wilmot ! For an instant 
there was a hush in the House ; and then in a strong, firm voice, 
Wilmot voted aye ! Immediately afterwards a score of his old 
associates, Mr. Hamlin among the number, crowded about Mr. Wil 
mot in the cloak-room, and, with more or less excitement, demanded 
to know why he had not been in the House to present the proviso. 

" Give me a moment to get my breath, gentlemen, give me a 
moment to get my breath, Mr. Wilmot replied, and then went on : 

" Just as I was coming to the House I received a note from Presi 
dent Polk, asking me to come to the White House immediately. On 
one pretext or another he kept me in conversation for a long time. 
I had no watch with me, and did not know how rapidly the moments 
flew. When I left the White House, however, I found to my con 
sternation that I might not be in time to offer our measure ; then 
with all the rapidity I could, I hastened to the Capitol. The rest you 
know. This, my friends, I declare to you, upon my honor as a man, 


is the whole truth. Saying which Mr. Wilmot paused, and then 
added : But, by Heaven ! I shall believe to my dying day that the 
President purposely detained me, with the expectation of defeating 
the proviso. 

" It is almost needless to say that Mr. Hamlin had never doubted 
Wilmot s integrity or his fidelity to the anti-slavery cause. He, to 
gether with Preston King, Rathbun, and the rest of their circle, 
offered Mr. Wilmot their warmest sympathy for the circumstances 
that prevented him from presenting the measure which bears his 
name, and so the matter ended." l 

To this may be added that Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Wilmot remained 
close friends and associates. Mr. Wilmot was also one of the found 
ers of the Republican party ; he was temporary chairman of the con 
vention that nominated Mr. Hamlin for Vice-President and for several 
years a member of the United States Senate when Mr. Hamlin pre 
sided over that body. 

-The proviso was rejected by the Senate. Public sentiment of the 
North was in favor of the measure ; Daniel Webster lent it his power 
ful aid ; but the administration had determined on the defeat of the 
proviso, and that most powerful engine of corruption patronage 
was the means employed. The Three Million Dollar Bill was passed 
in the Senate by almost a strict party vote, and sent back to the 
House for its concurrence. Here again evil forces triumphed, or 
else men were guilty of unpardonable inconsistency. On the last 
day of the session the courageous Wilmot and his determined allies 
made another stand in the last ditch, as it were, for the cause of 
freedom. Mr. Wilmot offered his proviso once more, and this time 
the House rejected it by the narrow vote of 107 to 97. Of the men 
who stood by the Wilmot Proviso it need only be said that they were 
the same upright friends of freedom who have been mentioned many 
times in these pages, and those who opposed had many among them 
who afterwards risked their all to disrupt the Union to perpetuate 
slavery. Honorable mention should be made of Alexander Ramsey 
and Samuel F. Vinton, who first opposed the proviso when it was 
presented in the House in August, 1846, but supported it when pub 
lic sentiment was aroused. The change of a few votes accomplished 
the final defeat of the proviso in the House, and those votes, alas ! 
came from the Northern men, Joseph E. Edsall, of New Jersey ; 
Henry D. Foster, William S. Garvin, and James Thompson, of Penn 
sylvania ; Joseph Russell and Thomas M. Woodruff, of New York, 
and Thomas J. Henley, of Indiana. Thus, the Three Million Dollar 
Bill was passed by Congress without any restrictions whatever on 
the slave power. Thus, once again a slowly awakening people heard 
1 Carroll s Twelve Americans, pp. 132-134. 


in their slumbers a dim echo of the firebells that were warning those 
fully roused to the dangers which threatened the republic. The 
slave power was now conscious of its strength, and was beginning to 
boast of its future conquests. It was no child s play to battle with 
such a foe ; not orators, not speeches, were needed to grapple with 
the enemy, but practical men, who could rise to any emergency at 
a moment s notice, combat carefully laid plans, watch the enemy in 
his ambuscade or meet him boldly in the open, fight treason in their 
own ranks, and keep up the courage of their friends. The future 
looked dark, but the pioneer anti-slavery men who rallied around the 
Wilmot Proviso had the stuff of the men of 76. 



THE plot to betray Oregon to the British government was no 
sooner executed in part, as before stated, than another plan was set on 
foot, to establish slavery in Oregon. This developed when the settle 
ment of the boundary controversy rendered it necessary to organize 
a territorial government. The leaders of the slave power exercised 
more caution and self-restraint in the first stages of this affair than 
in the latter ; nevertheless, they took a bolder stand in enunciating 
and defending the doctrines of slavery extension than ever before. 
Their chief contentions were that the slave was " property," and that 
a slaveowner could, therefore, take his " property " or " chattel " 
wherever he liked ; and also that Congress had no right to interfere 
with the institution of slavery. These claims had been heard before 
in connection with Texas and Missouri ; but now they had a different 
sound when applied to Northern territory. There was an ominous 
meaning in these theories, and yet while the Northern anti-slavery 
leaders fully caught the significance of the slave party s attitude, the 
North was slow to believe. The general talk at the North was that 
this was more " Southern bluster." But it proved to be the beginning 
of a gigantic movement to force the peculiar institution into free soil, 
to make slavery national. The crisis of 1860 was the ultimate out 
come of the train of events thus set in motion. The anti-slavery men 
in Congress were on their guard at the outset. Mr. Hamlin was one 
of their leaders in exposing and fighting this new move by the enemy. 

The bill to organize Oregon as a free territory was introduced into 
the House on December 23, 1846, by Stephen A. Douglas. This bill 
reaffirmed the Ordinance of 1787, which excluded slavery from the 
Northwest, and the slavery leaders pretended to oppose the Douglas 
measure on the alleged ground that the ordinance was not constitu 
tional. Their apparent object in pursuing this course was to lead the 
House into the labyrinth of a debate on the constitutional aspect of 
the Oregon case, in which they might be able to effect a compromise 
to their advantage over the territory to be acquired from Mexico. 
Stephen Adams, of Mississippi, gave a hint of this programme by in 
troducing on January 12, 1847, an amendment that read, "Nothing in 
relation to slavery in this act shall be construed as an intention to 


interfere with the provisions or spirit of the Missouri Compromise ; 
but the same is hereby recognized as extending to all territory which 
may hereafter be acquired by the United States." The House was 
then in the committee of the whole, with Mr. Hamlin in the chair, 
but he took the floor to reply to Adams. Mr. Hopkins, who suc 
ceeded to the chair, ruled that so much of *Mr. Adams s amendment 
was out of order as referred to territory other than that of Oregon. 
Mr. Hamlin s short, vigorous speech was a notable warning, in view of 
subsequent events, to the slave power and a challenge to his enemies 
at home. 

" I shall vote," said he, " under the belief that the Missouri Compromise 
has no more to do with the territory of Oregon than it has with the East 
Indies. Gentlemen ask me why put this restriction into the bill ? I will 
tell them. If the restrictive clause were not inserted, slavery would creep 
into Oregon as surely as Satan crept into the Garden of Eden. . . . The 
Missouri Compromise did not apply to any territory in the Union at the 
time it was effected. . . . That compromise was effected by drawing a line 
along the latitude of 36 30 , separating so much of the territory of Loui 
siana as should be open to slavery from that part from which it was to be 
forever excluded. Now, it is obvious on every principle of justice that 
when other territory is to be taken into the Union, the compromise line 
must be run on a different parallel to suit the changed state of circum 
stances. I desired to have this principle of compromise introduced into 
Texas and made a condition of her annexation. But I was told by gentle 
men who opposed me that this course would be unnecessary because a part 
of Texas must be free by the laws of Heaven, it not being adapted to a 
slave population ; and finally, the compromise was refused, and slavery is 
now lawful in every part of Texas. But it is now time that it should be 
fully understood that the resolution has been taken, and will prevail in all 
the free States, that there shall be no more slave territory admitted to the 
Union. This doctrine will prevail, and woe ! woe ! unto the man coming 
here from any Northern State who shall not govern himself accordingly. 
Such a man may escape destruction for a short time ; but as sure as he has 
an existence so surely will the resistless tide of public sentiment of the 
North roll over and overwhelm him forever." * 

Mr. Adams withdrew his amendment. The slave party returned to 
the attack with different tactics. Armistead Burt, of South Carolina, 
offered an amendment to the Douglas bill to extend the Missouri line 
of compromise to the Pacific slope, and he made a speech, prophesy 
ing disunion unless compromise was agreed to in the case of Oregon 
and the new territory to be taken from Mexico. R. Barnwell Rhett, 
of South Carolina, enunciated the extreme theory held by men of his 
class, that the ownership of Oregon resided in the sovereignty of the 
1 Congressional Globe, January 12, 1847, p. 169. See correction, p. 177. 


States, and that neither Congress, nor the entire federal government, 
had a right to legislate on the question of slavery touching Oregon. 

The anti-slavery Democrats undoubtedly had a private understand 
ing when the time arrived for action. Preston King introduced a bill 
that was more popular with them than that which Douglas had offered, 
since it was a reaffirmation of the Wilmot Proviso, and dealt with 
other subjects. It is evident, also, that Mr. Hamlin was chosen to 
champion King s bill, and to make reply to Rhett and his friends ; but 
the Douglas bill had the floor the last day of the debate, and as it was 
a good measure the anti-slavery men supported it. Mr. Hamlin made 
the principal speech of the debate. This was delivered on January 
1 6, 1847, an d was one of the most elaborate efforts he ever made in 
Congress. It is an exposition of his constitutional knowledge and his 
views as a Jeffersonian Democrat and Free-Soiler of the powers of 
the government and the individual States in the matter of slavery. 
One sentiment that Mr. Hamlin uttered was heard throughout the 
country : " To any proposition for taking territory now free and send 
ing there the shackles and manacles of slavery, I will never consent ; 
never ! " A necessarily compressed report of the speech is presented. 

Mr. Hamlin began his speech by charging the pro-slavery party 
with misrepresenting the attitude of the anti-slavery party. If a 
stranger had listened to the discussion, he might have supposed that 
the anti-slavery members of the House were engaged in a crusade 
against the rights of the States. But they did not propose to disturb 
one solitary right ; on the other hand, they pledged themselves to 
stand in a common brotherhood engaged in a common cause with the 

" As members of this great confederacy, however, we do ask and demand 
that in all things submitted to our deliberation we shall have the right to 
speak, and speak with manly frankness and boldness, to maintain and 
defend the rights of constituents. We will ask no more, we will take no 
less. What is it, then, that we would propose to do ? We propose to say 
. . . that we will stand by the clearly defined rights of each individual 
State in reference to the institution of slavery ; but to territory now free it 
shall never be extended with our votes and consent, nor shall its limits in 
any way or manner be enlarged. . . . What provisions of the Constitution 
do we violate ? What right of a single State do we disregard ? . . . Now 
the question submitted to us, and it is not a question to be winked out of 
sight, is : Are we to acquire other and foreign territory . . . that it may 
be converted into slave territory ? Never, sir ; never, to the end of time, 
with my aid and my assistance, shall that acquisition take place. . . . 
W r e here understand perfectly if nothing be said, if nothing be done, that 
slavery will surely advance and invade the territories which we may here 
after acquire." 


Mr. Hamlin reviewed the acquisition of Louisiana and Florida, and 
the annexation of Texas, to show the purpose of the people was to 
enlarge the Union, not to extend slavery. He referred to the Missouri 
Compromise, and while he was willing to agree to a fair compromise 
in the division of Texas at the time, now he would discard at once and 
forever any talk about compromises on any parallel of latitude named 
by man. 

" To any proposition of taking territory now free, and sending there the 
shackles and manacles of slavery, I will never consent, never. . . . On 
that rock I build, sir, and the waves, the strength, the power, of that insti 
tution of slavery shall never prevail against it. Why should we say it now ? 
Because if we do not say it now, it will be too late hereafter. Now is the 
golden moment. ... I hope we may be able to pass a declaratory act for 
ever prohibiting slavery in any territory we may hereafter acquire, and that, 
when admitted, the compact will be made to exclude slavery after it shall 
have become a State of this Union. I know that gentlemen may tell me 
that such an act may not have force or validity ; that Congress has not the 
power to restrict slavery in any State. I have no fear on that subject. . . . 
Sir, the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed this doctrine with 
reference to the Ordinance of 1787, that slavery was absolutely prohibited 
northwest of the Ohio River by that ordinance ; and the Supreme Court 
has also decided that no State formed out of that territory has the right to 
establish slavery within its limits." 

Mr. Hamlin affirmed the power of Congress to pass the declaratory 
act he advocated, and asserted that the people of the North desired it, 
although here and there there was 

" a shackled press muttering its dissent " and " here and there a dough 
face with feelers on his lips, uttering his faint protest against it. But it is 
the doctrine of the North, it is the doctrine she will march up to ; she will 
live up to it in all coming time. . . . But the gentleman from South Caro 
lina (Barnwell Rhett) denies to us the power of passing this declaratory act. 
If I understood the gentleman s argument and I believe I did, although it 
is somewhat fine-spun and bordering too much on the transcendental ... 
the gentleman holds clearly and distinctly that we may acquire foreign terri 
tory, . . . but can do nothing with it. The answers to these propositions 
are full and to the point. They need only to be stated : 

" i st. If the general government have the power or sovereignty sufficient 
to acquire, they have the sovereignty to take care of, these territories. 

" 2d. If there is no sovereignty in the general government, and if it is 
with the people, we as representatives of that sovereignty can acquire terri 
tory by legislative enactment. We have done so. ... 

" 3d. The gentleman holds that . . . the Constitution which authorizes 
us to pass all needful rules applies only to property. . . . Well, does he not 
hold that slaves are property ? 

" 4th. California and other territory are now free. By the law of nations 


the moment a slave treads their soil he becomes free. Slavery, then, must 
exist there in violation of that law." 

Mr. Hamlin reviewed constitutional and congressional authorities 
to support his contention of the right to pass the declaratory act. He 
found authority in article four, section three, of the Constitution, which 
said : 

" Congress shall have the power to dispose of and make all needful rules 
and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the 
United States. . . . But it is too late even to raise this question when 
the whole and uniform action of the government has been one way. . . . 
Why, there has not been a time since the adoption of the Constitution, when 
Congress at each session has not exercised that power, the power of legis 
lating over territories. One thing more. I wish to see no cordon of free 
States thrown around the slave States. ... I would leave a transit open 
through which they may pass into Mexico, where they maf find a govern 
ment in which they may participate. But I would leave this for those who 
are interested to do this without force or coercion. . . . God in his own 
good time will put an end to that institution, as He will as certain as time 
will roll on. ... A few words more and I am done, and in reference to the 
stale, worn-out cry of the dissolution of this Union. . . . The Union cannot 
be dissolved. The mutual interests and benefits enjoyed by the different 
sections would not permit it. The great West is bound to the South by its 
commerce, and cannot be separated while its mighty waters roll on to the 
Gulf of Mexico. The North and the South, too, are equally bound by their 
commerce and exchange of products. These are all ligaments that cannot 
be rent or dissolved. 

" The talk of it is folly, as well as madness. A dissolution of this great 
and mighty republic, erected by the wisdom of our fathers, and cemented 
by their blood. And for what ! Spread it out that the public eye may gaze 
upon it ; proclaim it that the public ears may hear it ; utter it from the 
groaning press and thunder it from the pulpit. A dissolution of the Union 
because we will not extend the institution of negro slavery ! The man who 
would utter that sentiment should blush when it falls from his lips. Dis 
solve this great and mighty republic for this miserable pretext ! That is 
not the doctrine of the great and patriotic South ; she has rallied, except 
the time when she was about to go to the death for sugar, she has rallied 
for this Union. She will stand by it when others desert it, stand by it in 
all coming time, and will regret that her sons proclaimed it to the world, 
in this nineteenth century, in this freest country on earth, that we are to 
dissolve this fair fabric for the miserable reason that we will not extend 
the institution which is a curse to all States in which it exists, 

"Whatever may be the action and course of Northern representatives 
here, the great mass of the Northern people have but one single impulse in 
their bosoms to stand by this Union through good and evil report to 
rally round the blessed stars and stripes of our glorious confederacy wher 
ever they float to peril their lives and pour out their blood and treasure, 


if need be, in its defense; but to the institution of slavery they say, Thus 
far hast thou gone no farther shalt thou go. " 

A clearer insight into the plans of the slave power regarding 
Oregon may be glained from what John C. Calhoun said in the 
United States Senate, on February 19, 1^847, a little more than a 
month after Mr. Hamlin s speech had defined the feelings and inten 
tions of the anti-slavery party towards Oregon : 

" Sir, the day that balance between the two sections of the country, the 
slaveholding States and the non-slaveholding States, is destroyed is a day 
that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, 
and widespread disaster. The balance of this system is in the slaveholding 
States. They are the conservative portion, always have been the conser 
vative portion always will be the conservative portion, and with a due bal 
ance on their part may for generations to come uphold this glorious Union 
of ours. But i< this scheme should be carried out, if we are to be reduced 
to a handful, if we are to become a mere ball to play the presidential 
game, to count something in the Baltimore caucus, if this is to be the 
result, woe, woe, I say, to this Union." 

As the slave party saw that it was beaten in the House, it made 
no effort to defeat the Douglas bill, in the hope that the pro-slavery 
Senate would check the passage of the measure. This was the case. 
The Oregon bill was delayed in the committee until it was too late for 
the Senate to take action. Mr. Hamlin was, personally, greatly disap 
pointed, for his efforts to guard Oregon against slavery were among 
the last services he rendered in the House. He left Washington at 
the expiration of his term, little dreaming that he would be sent 
to the Senate in a short year, in time to help Oregon secure her 

The record of Mr. Hamlin s second term in the House may be 
closed with a brief reference to other acts of his that are of lesser 
interest and importance, which should not be "entirely omitted. He 
voted for the Walker tariff bill, but in a speech on July 7, 1846, 
said that it did not fully meet his approval. On July 8, 1846, he spoke 
at length on the sale of public lands, defending the right of the govern 
ment to sell to those who would settle on them and " transform a 
wilderness into cultivated fields and happy homesteads." This right 
was denied by some theorists. Mr. Hamlin laid special stress in his 
remarks on the necessity of the government taking pains to prevent 
the land to be sold from falling into the hands of speculators. He 
was also active at this time in pushing the independent treasury bill, 
though he had little to say about the measure in debate. It is notice 
able that Mr. Hamlin several times, when postal bills were under dis 
cussion, advocated the repeal of the franking privilege. On different 
occasions he offered amendments to this effect, but without avail, 


April 24, 1846, February 24, 1847, and at other times. He opposed 
franking on principle, and to the end of his career in Congress urged 
its abolishment. One more incident may be referred to since it shows 
Mr. Hamlin s ideas about suffrage. A bill was before the House on 
May 21, 1846, to extend the right of suffrage to citizens living in the 
District of Columbia. Mr. Hamlin, in the discussion of suffrage, on 
this and other occasions, favored the measure and declared himself 
opposed to property qualifications. One argument he made was that 
if some people had no money they had rights that were infinitely 
above money. A unique incident was his introduction of a bill to 
close the " refectories in the basement of the Capitol, unless the 
keepers should suspend the sale of intoxicating liquors." This was 
offered on December 29, 1846. A motion to table was lost by a vote 
of 120 to 18. 

A movement was started to elect; Mr. Hamlin to the House for a 
third term. He wrote his friend, A. M. Robinson, who should have 
been his successor, and who was for many years a leading Democrat 
in Piscataquis County, that this was originated without his knowledge 
or desire. He did not allow his friends to proceed farther, and it 
appears that he supposed that he would not return to public life. 



WHEN Mr. Hamlin came home from Washington in the summer of 
1847, m describing his life in Congress to his friends, he said that he 
felt " cooped up " at the national capital, and he now proposed to 
"get back to nature." Out-of-door life was always his passion ; farm 
ing and fishing his pastime. When he settled in Hampden he began 
planning to have a farm of his qwn, but it was not until he left Con 
gress this summer that he was able to gratify his wishes. He bought 
a farm in Hampden then known as the Haskins place, on the eastern 
or river side of which is the site of fortifications that Captain Charles 
Morris, of the United States frigate John Adams, threw up in the 
war of 1812, when the British fleet came up the Penobscot River. 
Captain Morris was prepared to rake the fleet, but a fog arose, and in 
the end he had to burn the Adams and spike her guns to prevent the 
British from capturing a great prize. For many years subsequent the 
charred remains of the Adams were seen near the foot of the bluffs 
of the old Hamlin farm when the tide was low. 

The land extended easterly from the village highway to the bluffs 
overlooking the Penobscot. It commanded a beautiful view of the 
river stretching to the right and left, and was refreshed by the breezes 
wafted up from the waters below. The farm comprised about fifteen 
acres of worn-out land ; but the regeneration of land was one thing 
in which Mr. Hamlin especially delighted, and he set about his work 
with enjoyment. He had a little garden near his house, and he 
planned to make his farm and garden supply his table and live stock, 
and also leave a surplus for him to sell. 1 He worked on his land 
every day he could spare, and also insisted that his sons, and, later, 
his grandsons, should do likewise. He never said much about his rea 
sons for this, but it was easy to see that he believed in the dignity of 
manual labor, and that it purified men to get back to nature. " God 
made the country, and man made the town," was one of his silent, 
guiding maxims of life. In a few summers time he renovated the 
Haskins place, and thereafter it yielded him all the produce necessary. 

1 Mr. Hamlin kept a farm in Bangor and worked on it nearly every year from 
1861 to 1890. He rarely failed to make it produce all he needed for his table and 
live stock, with a surplus that he sold. 


A pretty reminiscence of Mr. Hamlin s life on the Hampden farm 
is associated with the bobolinks that nested in a large plot in the 
centre of a field. He had been too busy to pay attention to them 
until mowing in their neighborhood. He then noticed that the bobo 
links flew up out of the tall grass in large numbers, uttering cries as 
they circled off, as if trying to draw him away. This Mr. Hamlin 
recognized as a sign that the birds had nests in the grass. He could 
not think of disturbing the pretty little songsters, and although they 
laid claim to a large plot of land, he mowed around the spot, leaving 
the bobolinks in undisturbed possession of their home. Before long 
Mr. Hamlin became very much attached to his bobolinks, and often 
in the early morning, when they sang their symphony, he would go 
to his farm and listen. " This is music," he would say. In haying 
time, whenever the farm hands approached the birds homing place, 
they would see Mr. Hamlin turn around now and then and look at 
the plot in the centre of the field. So the bobolinks continue to nest 
and sing on the little farm in Hampden to this day, as they did more 
than half a century ago. 

When Mr. Hamlin returned to Hampden from Washington he had 
little idea of reentering active political life immediately, but circum 
stances conspired to bring him out of retirement before he had hardly 
entered it. A political tangle occurred in the Hampden legislative 
district. There were three tickets in the field and three successive 
failures to elect. Mr. Hamlin s friends urged him to take the Demo 
cratic nomination to prevent further factional troubles in his party. 
He did not desire^to return to the legislature, and would have declined 
could he have seen his way out of the difficulty. But a final argu 
ment was brought to bear upon him, and that was, if he resumed his 
seat in the House, he could effectively fight the pro-slavery wing of 
his party, and perhaps materially improve his chances of going to the 
Senate. This prevailed, and Mr. Hamlin accepted the nomination. 
His election was by no means an assured success, nor was it a purely 
local affair. There were hard-headed pro-slavery Democrats in Hamp 
den who honestly believed that the Constitution morally forbade criti 
cism of slavery and with whom it was a toilsome task to labor. They 
liked Mr. Hamlin personally, but they felt it a solemn duty to offer 
him up as a sacrifice, and they were encouraged by the leaders of the 
pro-slavery Democracy. 

But Mr. Hamlin was elected in spite of this opposition, and, as it 
afterwards turned out, his return to the legislature was an exceedingly 
fortunate thing for him. The anti- slavery men all over the State had 
bestirred themselves, and sent men to the legislature who could be 
depended upon. Among them was a group of men who were as true 
supporters as any anti-slavery leader in this country ever had. Mr. 


Hamlin made their acquaintance, and for the rest of his fight against 
the slave power in Maine they stood by as his old guard. The ablest 
was William P. Haines, of Biddeford, who possibly might have sat in 
the Senate with Mr. Hamlin had he desired, as will appear in a sub 
sequent chapter. Hugh D. McClellan, of Gorham, the Speaker of 
the House, was another leader. LeandeT Valentine, of Westbrook, 
was one of Mr. Hamlin s lifelong friends. Others were Ira T. Drew, 
of Waterboro, one of the leading lawyers of the State ; Nathan 
White, of Bucksport ; Horatio G. Russ, of Paris ; Campbell Batch- 
elder, of Corinna ; Andrew D. Bean, of Brooks ; David S. Flanders, 
of Monroe ; Ozias Blanchard, of Blanchard ; Samuel Mayall, of Gray ; 
Benjamin B. Thomas, of Newburgh ; and William R. Flint, of Somer 
set County. General John J. Perry, of Oxford County, and Charles 
H olden, of Portland, who had served before in the legislature, were 
members of this group of Mr. Hamlin s friends. Mr. Hamlin s 
brother, Elijah, was prominent among the anti-slavery Whigs of the 

Mr. Hamlin s record of services in this legislature shows that he 
was closely attentive to his duties. While his record need not be 
detailed, several of his acts cannot be omitted. The most important 
was an attack he made on the doctrine of slavery extension. The 
Mexican war had not yet closed, and the question of the extension or 
restriction of slavery was slowly but surely bringing about a revolu 
tion in public sentiment at the North against slavery. Maine had 
not yet given an official expression of the feelings of her people on 
this question, although their general sentiment was strongly against 
the extension of the peculiar institution. Mr. Hamlin still felt that it 
was the duty of the North to maintain its constitutional obligations 
and confine slavery to the territory where it had previously been 
agreed by the founders of the government that it should exist. This 
was the opinion held by the coolest heads of the day, and it was 
vindicated in the end. In attempting to extend slavery, the South 
violated the implied moral obligations placed on it by the Constitu 
tion, and therefore was responsible for bringing on the crisis of 1860. 
But men were not prophets in 1847. The leaders of the anti-slavery 
party saw the necessity of maintaining their lines of defense intact. 
They knew how slow great movements were in crystallizing, and how 
important it was to move slowly until events began to operate. "The 
feeling in the air" was that this line of action would place upon the 
slave party the responsibility of any dire results that might follow its 
aggressive conduct. 

Mr. Hamlin offered some resolutions in the legislature that clearly 
illustrate his feelings at this time. The first declared that, " Maine, 
by the action of her state government and representatives in Con- 


gress, should abide honestly and cheerfully by the letter and spirit 
and concessions of the Constitution of the United States, at the same 
time resisting firmly all demands for their enlargement or extension." 
The second said that, " The sentiment of this State is profound, sin 
cere, and almost universal that the influence of slavery upon produc 
tive energy is like the blight of mildew ; that it is a moral and social 
evil ; that it does violence to the rights of man as a thinking, reason 
ing, and responsible being. Influenced by such considerations, this 
State will oppose the introduction of slavery into any territory which 
may be acquired as an indemnity for claims upon Mexico." The 
third asserted that, " In the acquisition of any free territory, whether 
by purchase or otherwise, we deem it to be the duty of the general 
government to extend over the same the Ordinance of 1 787, with all 
its rights, privileges, conditions, and immunities." 

When the committee having these resolutions in charge reported 
them, a me*mber of the House who had a constitutional habit of dis 
agreeing with everybody offered some substitutes, and in the course 
of his remarks criticised Mr. Hamlin s resolutions on the grounds 
that they were the same thing as the Wilmot Proviso, which he said 
was "nothing but an abstraction." 

Mr. Hamlin replied to this astonishing doctrine with some sarcasm. 
He pointed out that the Wilmot Proviso embodied the principle of 
the Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in all territory north 
west of the Ohio River, and was a fundamental law passed by Con 
gress, and, therefore, not an abstract doctrine. Taking up the Wilmot 
Proviso he said : 

" Upon this question I chose my ground on the side of freedom against 
the extension of the accursed system of slavery into territory now free, 
There I plant my feet with deliberation and with a fixed determination 
to abide. There I shall rest while reason controls the helm. The gentle 
man has said that the discussion in Congress upon the Wilmot Proviso 
was nothing but talk about abstractions. Indeed ! it was proposed to pass 
a fundamental law prohibiting forever the introduction of slavery into terri 
tory now free, and which might be hereafter acquired, to enact the prin 
ciples of Jefferson, who originated the idea of the Ordinance of 1787, as 
applicable to the new States that might be embraced within the- folds of 
this republic. And this to the gentleman s apprehension was an abstrac 
tion. Well, I would like to have him define what is not an abstraction. 
. . . Deprecating the system of slavery the friends of the Wilmot Proviso 
would provide against the extension of that system into free territory. In 
this the gentleman sees nothing but abstractions, but in his own proposi 
tions that condemn slavery as a moral and political evil, the further exten 
sion of which should be resisted by every just and honorable means, he 
avoided recommending any course of action. . . . But is it not a little 
singular that one who has said so much about the wrongs of slavery should 


be so easily satisfied that he should fold his arms in a listless way, and say 
to our brethren of the South, * Your institution is a vile one, its extension 
ought to be resisted, but we have no disposition to interfere to prevent its 
extension. Oh, no ! any effort of that kind would be an abstraction. For 
myself I care very little for that enthusiasm which wastes itself in words. 
I shall never be found pluming myself on my Jiatred of any particular form 
of error, and putting forth no hand to prevent its spread hurling anath 
emas against the moral and political evils of slavery, yet not daring to 
maintain the right, but shrinking back before the menaces and frowns of 
the friends of the peculiar institution. I will not stultify myself by assert 
ing a moral and political evil, and yet refuse to say that I will not prevent 
an extension. Withholding action is declaring that one will not say the 
truth about this thing of slavery, and we should act. . . . The first resolu 
tion is in accordance with the old Democratic doctrine of a strict construc 
tion of the Constitution. . . . The second resolution declares that Maine 
will resist the extension of slavery in free soil. The third makes out dis 
tinctly the manner in which it shall be accomplished. . . . We not only 
say that we will resist the extension of slavery into free territory, but we 
say precisely how we will do it. The substitute is vague and uncertain, 
and it might be explained away at the time of action. Upon questions like 
this there should be candor and frankness. We owe that to ourselves, to 
the State, and to the Union. . . . The only slave territories that have been 
joined to the original Union were received with their slaves, and the 
guarantees accorded to the old States were extended to them and kept in 
good faith. May we not require them in even-handed justice that free 
territories shall be added to the Union without change ? And who and 
what kind of men at the North will demand anything else ? I should, 
indeed, consider myself regardless of a becoming state pride, recreant to 
the impulses of humanity and to all the obligations resting upon me as a 
man, if I should falter on this question. I will not speak of the motives 
and actions of others ; but occupying the stand I do, if I should fail to 
maintain the principles of the resolutions I should be entitled to the 
opprobrium of an outraged constituency, and to the scorn of every man 
worthy to breathe the free air of our native hills, or to drink the pure water 
of their crystal springs." 

In another part of his speech Mr. Hamlin urged the adoption of 
his resolutions on the ground that it would also shape any further 
legislation Maine might make on this issue. But he particularly 
favored this act because he believed that it would have a moral effect. 
Years afterwards Mr. Hamlin was questioned about this, and he 
broke his habit of taciturnity about himself to say that he regarded 
the offering of these resolutions as one of the most important acts of 
his life. He did not make any explanation of this, but the events 
that follow seem to offer the explanation. The legislature passed the 
resolutions with only six dissenting votes out of one hundred and 
thirty in the House. Standing at the head of the column of States, 


Maine s official and political acts have always carried weight. Mr. 
Hamlin s resolutions were looked on as the Pine Tree State s formu 
lated views on the extension of slavery, and nine years later were 
practically the principles adopted by the young Republican party at 
its first presidential campaign. 

The legislature adjourned in July to welcome President Polk, the 
first chief magistrate to visit Maine since Andrew Jackson. Mr. Polk 
was received at Augusta with many honors. William P. Haines made 
the speech of welcome, and he and Mr. Hamlin were the President s 
honorary escort in his departure from the city. Mr. Polk made a 
very favorable impression on the people of Maine. He was a speaker 
of no mean ability, and was an undoubtedly sincere Union man. Born 
and brought up at the South, he regarded slavery as a patriarchal 
institution, and earnestly desired that agitation against slavery should 
cease. His sentiments are to be found in his speech at Augusta on 
this occasion. His ideas of disunion, and the evils that would follow, 
may now be read with a clearer understanding of the man who uttered 
them than he received in his lifetime. Mr. Polk said in part : l 

" Sir, in other countries the monarch rules he is the sovereign 

but in this country, thank God, we know no monarch, no sovereign 

save the people. . . . Sir, under our republican system we are all 
equals. It is the noblest structure of human government ever devised 
by the wisdom of man. This government, founded by our ancestors, 
is intrusted to our keeping, and we owe it to ourselves, to posterity, 
and to mankind to cherish and preserve it. ... And permit me to 
add, that he who would upturn and destroy this fairest fabric of 
human wisdom would inflict an irreparable evil upon mankind. 

" Sir, the government under which we live is one of compromise. 
Embracing interests so opposite, and comprehending within its limits 
so many degrees of latitude, with production so varied and pursuits so 
dissimilar, it could not well have been established upon any other 
basis than that of mutual concession. That band of statesmen, the 
noblest the sun ever shone upon, whose wisdom gave birth to our glo 
rious Constitution, declared it to have been founded in compromise. 
The spirit of Washington presided in their counsels, and concession 
characterized their deliberations. They gave us their present insti 
tutions, and what do we witness as a result of their influence and 
operations ? . . . a territory inhabited by a thriving, an industrious, a 
contented, happy, and free people. Who, then, I repeat, will have the 
boldness to strike a blow at this fair framework ? ... It is, there 
fore, to a Union of the States, sir, that we must look as the pole-star 
to guide us onward in the career of prosperity and greatness. . . . 
Sir, let that Union be dissolved, and these States pass into petty prin- 
1 Reported in the Augusta Tri-lVeekly, July, 1847. 


cipalities, with jarring interests, and incessantly at war with each 
other, and the last hope in the capacity of man for self-government is 
fled forever. Our example is now spread abroad to the world the 
result of our experiment is watched with intense interest. . . . Sir, 
how shall the local jealousies which disturb us compare with the 
great object of binding and continuing this free and happy people ? 
. . . Why, then, should the thought be entertained that this Union 
should be dissolved into its original elements ? Let us rally round 
the Union as our safeguard. At that altar, thank God, we may all 
worship, and in pleading for the preservation of our institutions, pray 
for the advancement of the good of mankind." . . . 

In December, 1847, news came from Washington that Senator Fair- 
field had unexpectedly succumbed to a surgical operation. The tidings 
of his sudden death caused great sorrow in Maine, for it was gener 
ally believed that he was a man of national possibilities. The imme 
diate result of Fairfield s untimely end was the reopening of the old 
fight between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery wings of the Maine 
Democracy to nominate a man to fill out Fairfield s unexpired term 
of three years. Mr. Hamlin s defeat in 1846 served to strengthen 
him with the anti-slavery wing of his party, and they brought him 
forward again as their candidate. The pro-slavery men again opposed 
him for the same reasons as in 1846, and even more vehemently 
on account of his course in the preceding legislature. For the fol 
lowing six months a warmly contested canvass was carried on among 
the members elect of the legislature, and the bitter cry was heard 
again : "Anything to beat Hamlin." 1 

For a second time Mr. Hamlin had to fight the party machine, and 
the opposition to him was more formidable than in his first campaign, 
although it was not as cunningly managed. There were four candi 
dates against him this time, and it was thought by his opponents 
that this would draw strength away from him. The candidates repre 
sented different shades of opinions and convictions on the slavery 
question from the hard-headed Hunker Democrat to the artful 
dodger who sheltered himself behind the Constitution, while trying 
to ascertain which way the wind was blowing. The best known 
was Nathan Clifford, who, as a member of the Cabinet, had the 
moral if not the practical support of the administration. Mr. Folk s 
courtesy and sense of propriety precluded him from interfering in 
behalf of his friend, Mr. Clifford, nevertheless the government office 
holders in Maine were in sympathy with the administration, and 
constituted a strong Clifford machine. Ex-Governor Anderson was 
also a candidate, and still retained a large personal following. The 

1 Mr. Hamlin wrote Leander Valentine, on March 2, 1848: " I am to be hunted 
down with the ferocity of bloodhounds." 


third was Samuel Wells, a man of force, who became governor of 
the State a few years afterwards. A fourth candidate was John D. 
McCrate, a member of Congress, who was friendly to Mr. Hamlin. 

John W. Dana was governor, and he had been elected as an anti- 
slavery man. In his message to the legislature of 1847, Mr. Dana 
took strong grounds against the doctrine of slavery extension, and for 
this he was commended by Mr. Hamlin in his speech on the Wilmot 
Proviso, which is partially reproduced in preceding pages. But while 
Mr. Dana was naturally inclined against the institution of slavery, he 
was a type of the well-meaning men of his day who allowed themselves 
to be guided in their difficulties by the fetich of party fealty. Men 
of this kind preached party duty first, and that a Democrat should 
" vote for the devil, if the regular party nominee." The emancipa 
tion of the American voter from this fetich is a story by itself. It 
will suffice now to say that the events that led to the crisis of 1860 
found Mr. Dana a convert to slavery, because it was supported by a 
majority of his party. His change of position was indicated at this 
time by his appointment of Wyman B. S. Moor to fill Fairfield s seat 
until the legislature acted. This was a distinct triumph for the 
avowed pro-slavery element of the Democratic party. Moor was a 
leader of that faction, and had publicly announced his opposition to 
the Wilmot Proviso. 

With the pro-slavery element in control of the party machinery, 
and two of its men in the United States Senate, the outlook was not 
encouraging for Mr. Hamlin at first. But appearances were deceitful ; 
the appointment of Moor caused an awakening of anti-slavery senti 
ment throughout Maine. It forced a direct issue between principles 
rather than men, and caused the defeat of the pro-slavery men. They 
contested every inch of the ground from the beginning of the fight. 
An idea of the extreme lengths to which they went in their efforts to 
defeat Mr. Hamlin may be gathered from the position Senator Bradbury 
took. When he was elected to the Senate in 1846, he took a con 
servative attitude towards the slavery question, and his election was 
regarded as a draw between the two factions. Mr. Hamlin threw his 
strength to Mr. Bradbury in the belief that it would be better to send 
him to the Senate than an avowed pro-slavery man. Mr. Bradbury 
acknowledged his obligations to Mr. Hamlin, and professed his inten 
tion of standing by him in the future. But he was a man of a gentle 
nature and conservative disposition ; the internal wranglings of his 
party disturbed him. 

But Mr. Hamlin had active and reliable friends. Ezra B. French 
was still secretary of state; Alfred Reddington, adjutant-general, and 
Samuel Cony, who was afterwards governor of Maine, was then the 
land agent. Mr. Hamlin s friends in the Senate were Thomas Dyer, 


3d, Ira T. Drew, Samuel W. Fox, Samuel Mayhall, Charles Holden, 
Hiram Chapman, Adams Treat, Benjamin B. Thomas, Henry Rich 
ardson, Oilman M. Burleigh, William R. Flint, Jacob Hale, and Wil 
liam Tripp. In the House were Hugh D. McClellan, the Speaker, 
George M. Freeman, Leander Valentine, Nathan White, Ziba Thayer, 
John Thissell, Stephen D. Jennings, Jamfcs Patten, Jr., John Tobin, 
George P. Sewall, William Merriam, Ebenezer Knowlton, Willard P. 
Harriman, and others who were prominent in the political affairs 
of their day. They were not only good anti-slavery men, but they 
were also practical, and experienced in the ways of politicians. They 
profited by the lesson of the previous senatorial election, and won 
their victory when perhaps one false move might have defeated them. 

When the legislature convened, the pro-slavery men were confident 
that they had Mr. Hamlin beaten. Their plan was to enter their four 
candidates in the Senate caucus, and ultimately concentrate their 
strength on the one who should develop the largest following and pit 
him against Mr. Hamlin, in hopes of forcing a deadlock, as they had 
done in 1846. Mr. Hamlin s friends prudently refrained from disclos 
ing their strength for the reason that a knowledge of their numbers 
might lead the corrupt element that seduced David Dunn in 1846 
to attempt a renewal of dishonorable tactics. They said nothing, 
but quietly accepted the professions of the pro-slavery men at their 
face value, and suggested that an agreement be made that both sides 
support the party nominee, whoever he might be. Confident that 
they could beat the Hamlin forces in the Senate, the pro-slavery 
men bound themselves to this agreement. Among themselves they 
argued with no little merriment that if they could nominate their man 
in the Senate, and if the House should select Mr. Hamlin, there 
would be no party nominee, and in that contingency they would be 
free to carry out their original programme. 

Each house held its caucus on the same day May 29. The 
House nominated Mr. Hamlin by a handsome majority, as was gen 
erally believed it would. Interest was focused on the Senate. On the 
first ballot Mr. Hamlin lacked a few votes necessary to nominate him. 
He had a plurality over each of the four candidates against him, but 
not a majority over all. The balance of power was held by a few men 
who had been waiting to see which way the tide was going to turn 
before taking sides. They naturally favored the nomination of an 
anti-slavery man, but they did not like the idea of going counter to 
the dictates of the machine. Mr. Hamlin s friends, for this reason, 
did not throw their full strength on the first ballot. On the second 
ballot they increased Mr. Hamlin s vote by one ; on the third by two, 
and on the fourth the wavering senators joined the Hamlin forces 
and gave him fourteen votes, a majority of one over Clifford, Wells, 



Anderson, and McCrate. The pro-slavery men were dumfounded at 
the result, but when they recovered from their surprise, they found 
their pledges to support the nominee staring them in the face. They 
could do nothing but redeem their promise, and they acquiesced in 
Mr. Hamlin s nomination, comforting themselves by reminding each 
other that his term was only three years, and that in the mean time 
they could prepare themselves for the fight against him in 1851. 
These pledges they kept, as will appear later. Mr. Hamlin was duly 
declared the nominee, and elected United States senator. Elijah L. 
Hamlin was a member of the House, and as a Whig voted for George 
Evans, the nominee of his party. A few weeks later Elijah L. Ham 
lin was nominated by the Whigs as their candidate for governor, and 
Senator Hamlin had to take the stump against his brother, who was 

The same month in which Mr. Hamlin was elected to the Senate, 
the National Democratic Convention assembled at Baltimore to nomi 
nate a candidate for President. The events of the Polk administra 
tion proved that the slavery leaders were the power behind the throne 
of the Democracy, and there were signs of a bitter struggle for the 
mastery of this convention. The factional differences between the 
New York Democracy had precluded the renomination of Mr. Polk. 
Mr. Van Buren still desired a vindication, and his friends cherished a 
desire for revenge on the Southern Democracy for setting him aside 
in 1844. The sudden death of Silas Wright reopened old wounds, 
and his followers in New York were opposed to Mr. Folk s renomina 
tion on account of his course in rejecting advice he had sought from 
Governor Wright in appointing his secretary of the treasury. Thus 
the anomalous spectacle was presented of anti-slavery and pro-slavery 
Democrats joining hands to punish the slave power of their party. 
This faction, led by Mr. Van Buren, was known as the Barnburners ; 
the other, led by William L. Marcy, the Secretary of State, was called 
the Hunkers. Each sent a delegation to the convention, and refused 
reasonable offers of compromise. The Barnburners withdrew and 
announced their intention of making war on the ticket, should it 
displease them. 

This action on the part of the Barnburners not only rendered Mr. 
Folk s renomination inadvisable, but also peremptorily forbade the 
selection of Mr. Marcy, who was, perhaps, the ablest leader of the 
pro-slavery faction, next to Mr. Calhoun. The convention was there 
fore restricted to making its choice from General Lewis Cass, James 
Buchanan, and Levi Woodbury, who were the chief candidates con 
sidered. Of these three Mr. Hamlin preferred Woodbury. He knew 
Woodbury personally ; he believed him to be safe on the slavery 
question, and to be amply qualified by ability, character, and expe- 


rience to fill the presidency. He had also been one of Andrew 
Jackson s lieutenants, having been secretary of the treasury during 
Jackson s second term. He had been senator, and was now associate 
justice of the Supreme Court. In short, Woodbury was a wheel-horse 
of the Democracy, and would have been a good President. General 
Cass was a man of high personal characfer and pronounced ability, 
but he took the politician s view of slavery and did not seem to see 
the moral side of it. Mr. Buchanan appeared to Mr. Hamlin to be 
too pliant and weak to be President. The convention was dominated 
by the Southern wing, and its leaders, not daring to put forward one 
of their own men, dictated the nomination of General Cass in the 
belief that he was a "Northern man with Southern principles." It 
is perfectly proper to add that when events, in 1 860-61, opened Gen 
eral Cass s eyes to the dangers of slavery, he proved his loyalty to 
the Union by withdrawing from Buchanan s Cabinet. 

The nomination of General Cass was displeasing to Mr. Van Buren 
and his friends. They charged that General Cass, by allowing the 
use of his name in the convention of 1840, contributed to the defeat 
of Mr. Van Buren. They decided to bolt Cass, and called a con 
vention of their own at Buffalo. Mr. Van Buren professed his con 
cessions to the principles of Free-Soil, and in this move the more 
optimistic of the anti-slavery men thought they saw the dawn of a 
better day. The result was that a sympathetic movement was begun 
among the Free-Soilers of both parties to cooperate in forming a new 
party at this convention. Good and true anti-slavery men favored 
this movement and came to Buffalo. There were Democrats present, 
such as Salmon P. Chase, Preston King, James S. Wadsworth, John 
A. Dix, David Dudley Field, and Benjamin F. Butler, of New York. 
Among the Whigs was Charles Francis Adams, and among the 
Abolitionists was Joshua R. Giddings. Mr. Van Buren was nomi 
nated for President, and Mr. Adams for Vice-President. The Whigs 
completely begged the issue of slavery extension by nominating Gen 
eral Zachary Taylor on his military record as their platform. All that 
the public knew about General Taylor at the time was that he was a 
good soldier who was highly respected by his associates, and was 
also a large slaveholder. The situation did not seem promising to 
anti-slavery Democrats. General Cass apparently pledged himself 
to oppose the principles of the Wilmot Proviso by writing what was 
called the Nicholson letter. Senator Hamlin was a strong party man, 
and it was his custom to stand by his party. He believed that great 
results in national affairs could be best obtained through party 
cooperation, but he also held that parties erred like men and were to 
be judged as men were. He was disappointed at the defeat of Wood- 
bury, and he was disturbed over General Cass s apparent repudiation 


of the Wilmot Proviso. But he was not in the habit of judging men 
before he tried them, or leaping before he looked. He saw Gen 
eral Cass, and from him obtained a definite statement, that if he 
should be elected President he would not veto a bill prohibiting the 
extension of slavery into territory then free. 1 In the political game 
between the Northern and Southern leaders of the Democracy, Gen 
eral Cass appeared to believe that it was the North s time to take its 
turn. But if Senator Hamlin found General Cass s position incon 
sistent with his own ideas of truth and candor, he also found equal 
insincerity in the professions of Mr. Van Buren. He well knew the 
lengths to which a political feud would carry men, and he also under 
stood that the Buffalo convention was manipulated by the friends of 
Mr. Van Buren. 2 He concluded that they were animated by a desire 
of revenge rather than by a sincere wish to promote the principles of 
Free-Soil. There was a final consideration that decided Mr. Hamlin 
to stand by his party. He had been elected to the Senate as an anti- 
slavery leader, and it was a part of his duty to keep his party in 
Maine from falling into the hands of the slave power. If he left his 
party he would lose his hold on it, and there was now a pro-slavery 
Democrat from Maine in the Senate, Mr. Bradbury. Mr. Hamlin 
was engaged in the difficult task of " leading his constituents out of 
the woods," and by remaining with them he exerted an influence he 
never could wield outside of his party. His reasoning was vindicated 
within one year by events. Cass was defeated, and Van Buren en 
joyed the exquisite satisfaction of polling more votes in New York 
than Cass did. All Van Buren wanted was revenge, for after beating 
Cass, Mr. Van Buren threw his Free-Soil professions to the winds 
and returned to full alliance with his party as a pro-slavery man. In 
the words of Henry Wilson, then a Free-Soil Whig, "Who then could 
have imagined that within one brief year the very men who made this 
gallant fight . . . should return to the ranks they had so effectually 
broken, . . . aid by voice and vote in again placing in power the men 
who were found ready to indorse the wicked compromise of 1850 ? " 3 

1 When a candidate for reelection to the Senate in 1851, Senator Hamlin wrote 
to George F. Emery, of Portland, as follows: "I had such information as led 
me honestly to believe that Cass would never veto a bill prohibiting slavery. I 
believed so ; and was I not in a position to aid all who with me went for Free- 
Soil ? Could I not stand up in the Senate, demand a restriction of slavery, and 
demand it on the ground that I went for Cass s election with that expectation ? 
I believed then, as I do now, that I could truly aid the cause of freedom by my 
course. What the Free-Soil men will do, I cannot tell. I only know that I will 
battle faithfully for Free-Soil, whether defeated or successful." 

2 Lincoln satirized the elastic plank of the Buffalo convention by saying that 
it reminded him of what the Yankee peddler said of a pair of trousers he had for 
sale, " large enough for a man and small enough for a boy." 

8 Wilson s Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, vol. ii. p. 158. 



THE golden age of American oratory was still in its glory when 
Mr. Hamlin entered the Senate. Webster was at the height of his 
powers and authority. Calhoun, although on the decline, was still 
the master mind of his party. The return of Clay reunited this 
Titanic trio for the last time in the Senate. Another great figure 
was Benton, the Roman of his party. The most brilliant campaign 
orator of this period was Thomas Corwin, and he was one of the 
senators from Ohio. Willie P. Mangum and George E. Badger, of 
North Carolina, John McPherson Berrien, of Georgia, John M. Clay 
ton, of Delaware, John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, and Reverdy 
Johnson, of Maryland, were a notable group of high-minded, culti 
vated, able statesmen, and pro-slavery Union Whigs, who represented 
a conservative element that was soon to be supplanted by the aggres 
sive Southern wing of the Democratic party. Jefferson Davis was 
now recognized in the Senate as a coming leader of that faction, and 
an aspiring heir to Calhoun s mantle. With him David R. Atchison, 
of Missouri, David L. Yulee, of Florida, James M. Mason, of Vir 
ginia, author of the Fugitive Slave Law, formed a group of historic in 
terest. John Davis, of Massachusetts, and William L. Dayton, of New 
Jersey, represented the element of the Whig party that was merged 
into the Republican party eight years later and nominated Mr. Day 
ton for Vice- President. Stephen A. Douglas was forging to the front 
as the leader of that wing of the Northern Democracy that regarded 
slavery as a political rather than a moral issue, and was considered as 
a presidential candidate. General Sam Houston, of Texas, brave, 
able, and picturesque, was a Southern man of the Jackson type, and 
believed by many to be a coming President. Still another presiden 
tial possibility was John Bell, of Tennessee, able and statesmanlike, 
and now an opponent to the slave power. Charles G. Atherton, of 
New Hampshire, author of the Atherton gag, and Jesse D. Bright, of 
Indiana, who was subsequently expelled from the Senate for treason, 
were conspicuous as Northern men with Southern principles. Roger 
S. Baldwin and John M. Niles were worthy representatives of Con 
necticut. R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia, was a Southern leader of 
distinction who was highly esteemed by his opponents for his per- 






sonal qualities. Andrew Pickens Butler, of South Carolina, was im 
pulsive and generous by nature, and his impassioned utterances rarely 
left a sting. Henry S. Foote, of Mississippi, brilliant but erratic, was 
the disturbing factor in the Senate, and often as much a thorn to the 
disunionists as to the anti-slavery party. Daniel S. Dickinson, a self- 
made man of ability and character, and the soldierly John A. Dix 
maintained a conservative attitude towards slavery, the policy the 
New York Democracy generally followed. In John P. Hale, brilliant 
and whole-souled, the anti-slavery party had a devoted champion who 
had stood virtually alone until Mr. Hamlin entered the Senate. An 
other indication of the great changes working among the masses at 
the North was the fact that Salmon P. Chase had already been chosen 
the successor to William Allen, of Ohio. Simon Cameron, the 
shrewdest political manager this country has yet produced, was begin 
ning his long career as a senator from Pennsylvania. In truth, the 
Senate of 1848 was an assembly of great and interesting men, nearly 
all of whom consciously or unconsciously helped cast the shadows of 
the drama of 1860. The place this Senate holds in history is told in 
Mr. Elaine s well-chosen words : " At no time before or since in the 
history of the Senate has its membership been so illustrious, its weight 
of character and ability so great." 

The senate chamber was the room now occupied by the Supreme 
Court of the United States. Modeled after the Grecian theatre, it 
was noted for its fine acoustic properties. The proceedings were con 
ducted with great dignity and decorum, although an occasional bitter 
personal encounter took place. Senatorial courtesy had not yet 
reached that stage of development which transformed the Senate into 
an offensive and defensive alliance. Vice- President Dallas was the 
presiding officer, and he was truly the embodiment of senatorial dig 
nity and diplomatic courtesy. The two senators from Arkansas dif 
fered as to pronunciation of the name of their State. Mr. Dallas rose 
above the difficulty by recognizing one as the "senator from Arkansas," 
and the other as " the senator from Arkansaw." Ideas of dress as 
well as of etiquette prevailed that are now absent from the Senate. 
There was a recognized senatorial toga, and this was the claw-ham 
mer coat. Certain deferential customs were maintained in the public 
intercourse among the senators, to accentuate the importance of the 
senatorial function. For example, when a punctilious orator had to 
refer to a remark of a colleague, he would usually say, " It fell from 
the senator," as if he had shed words of wisdom. 

Behind the scenes the senators relaxed themselves. They were 
like lawyers who, after having launched their thunder at each other 
in court, found recreation in enjoying each other s society. The god 
like Webster would sometimes signalize his release from duties by 


wrapping his powerful arms around Mason and Douglas, and give them 
a bear-like hug. Calhoun ceased to be a Spartan, and became one 
of the most delightful of men. Henry Clay s imperious manner van 
ished, and he was soon the centre of a story-telling group. Benton 
was no longer the Roman, but a cordial, warm-hearted man, who 
seemed to have no other object than to entertain his friends. Andrew 
Pickens Butler, after one of his attacks on John P. Hale, would seek 
what was known as the " cave in the wall," and having cooled down, 
would engage in repartee and anecdote with his anti-slavery antagonist 
with the enjoyment of a generous nature. Jefferson Davis, high-bred 
and courteous, was active in the social life of the Senate. Mr. Ham- 
lin enjoyed pleasant personal relations with Webster, Clay, and the 
Great Nullifier, although he did not believe in their principles. From 
the first he was drawn to Benton as the representative Jackson Dem 
ocrat of his day, and the relations he sustained with the latter are a 
chapter for another place in these pages. He early formed a close 
social and party intimacy with Jefferson Davis, the story of which is 
to be told elsewhere. 

When Mr. Hamlin entered the Senate, Congress was once more 
embroiled in the Oregon controversy, which had been renewed since 
he left the House. This time the question of Oregon s rights arose 
for final settlement, and thus it happened that Mr. Hamlin took his 
seat in the Senate in season to help Oregon save herself from slavery. 
While this was a famous struggle in its day and severely agitated the 
country, it was overshadowed by the greater events that ensued. It 
is of historical importance and personal interest to this narrative. In 
the latter stage of the Oregon controversy may be found the genesis 
of the plan to bring the Supreme Court of the United States to the 
aid of the slave power. The debate also led Mr. Hamlin to make 
his first anti-slavery speech in the Senate. This speech, by the way, 
resulted in interesting Abraham Lincoln, who was then a member 
of the House, in Mr. Hamlin. He heard it and gave it his warm 

When Mr. Hamlin was in the House, it will be recalled, the bill 
was passed granting Oregon territorial government, and prohibiting 
slavery within her borders. Although the people of Oregon de 
manded a free government, the pro-slavery Senate was bold enough 
to repudiate the first principles of self-government by refusing to pass 
the bill in the face of a strong demand. But action could be delayed 
no longer now. Lawless men were flocking to Oregon, and the citi 
zens of the territory were compelled to take the law into their own 
hands. President Polk referred to this in a message to Congress. 
Further delay by Congress to give Oregon the simple means of self- 
defense from marauders was certain to create a national scandal. 


What Oregon asked was what had been granted to other territo 
ries, Iowa, for instance, the machinery of law and the right to 
regulate her own internal affairs. Why was Oregon singled out as 
an exception to the general rule ? It was plain now to the leaders 
of the slave party that they must show their colors and make their 
intentions known. What they wanted was to force slavery into all 
territory out of which States were likely to be formed in the near 
future. This territory then included Oregon, Upper and Lower Cali 
fornia, and New Mexico. 

This scheme was generally understood throughout the North ; but 
it must not be forgotten that the slave party had not yet directly 
acknowledged its purpose, and was not a unit in working to this end 
until the Oregon controversy came up for final settlement. Undoubt 
edly the leaders % of the slave party intended to make as fierce a 
fight as possible for the possession of Oregon as well as California 
and New Mexico ; but, failing in the case of the former territory, 
they planned to make use of the controversy over Oregon as a basis of 
compromise in dealing with the other territories. They were deter 
mined not to lose the hard-earned results of the Mexican war, Cal 
ifornia and New Mexico. The thought that they might infuriated 
them. Events were therefore ripe for a fight to a finish, so to speak, 
when Stephen A. Douglas, at the beginning of this session of Con 
gress, introduced a bill organizing a government in Oregon similar 
to that which Congress had granted to Iowa, and which forbade the 
introduction of slavery. John P. Hale offered an amendment em 
bracing the principles of tlje Ordinance of 1787. These measures 
together were too much for the slavery leaders. Their pent-up anger 
escaped ; they threw prudence to the winds, and in their wrath they 
let out their desires. Mr. Calhoun had the audacity of his wishes. 
He boldly proclaimed his doctrine, that "the national flag carries 
slavery wherever it floats." He laid down some dogmas in support 
of this doctrine, that " Congress had no right to prevent a citizen 
of a slave State from emigrating with his slave property to any ter 
ritory, and holding his slaves there in servitude;" that "the people 
of such territory have no right to legislate adversely thereto," and 
that " Congress has no right to vest such authority in a territorial 

The significance of these declarations was that the slave contro 
versy had entered on a new stage. The terms " Whigs " and " Dem 
ocrats " had little meaning now among the Southern members of 
Congress. They rallied around the standard of Calhoun, and accepted 
his declaration that "the national flag carries slavery wherever it 
floats " as their shibboleth. Conservative Whigs, such as Berrien, of 
Georgia, and Clayton, of Delaware, worked with Jefferson Davis, the 


leader of the young, aggressive Southern Democracy. Mr. Davis 
made an extreme speech, in which he defined the slave as a chattel, 
and claimed that for that reason the owner could take his property 
wherever he liked. According to this the doctrine of state rights 
was inoperative in a free State if a slaveholder chose to appear in it 
with his " property." But the debate popularized this theory with 
the slave party, and it was adopted as a cardinal principle, whereas 
before it had been tentatively presented. Although Mr. Davis s 
speech was extreme, it sounded the note of compromise. He was a 
spokesman of the slave party, and its leaders were now evidently 
looking beyond Oregon and at California and New Mexico. 

But there was nothing to compromise, and so much the better for 
the slave power. If it could hoodwink the Northern congressmen 
into believing that a compromise was the only way out of the diffi 
culty, it was sure to gain a point. Mr. Clayton, of Delaware, moved 
that the Douglas bill be referred to a select committee of eight, 
four from the North and four from the South. This motion appealed 
equally to the senators who supported slavery, and those who believed 
in " the glue of compromise," and those who worshiped the function 
of committee deliverance. Only fourteen senators opposed it, and 
among them were Messrs. Hamlin, Hale, Dix, Niles, Baldwin, and 
John Davis. Two of the Northern men appointed were Jesse D. 
Bright, of Indiana, who was expelled from the Senate for treason 
in 1862, and Daniel S. Dickinson, of New York, an honorable man, 
but one who never saw the slave power in its true light until the war. 
Mr. Dickinson said that he beheld "a gleam of sunshine" in Mr. Clay 
ton s motion. That is why he was placed on the committee. There 
was but one anti-slavery man on this committee, S. S. Phelps, of 
Vermont. It was a packed court. 

The deliverance of this committee was called the Clayton compro 
mise. It was an extraordinary affair. Instead of dealing with Oregon 
exclusively, or with each territory separately, the committee lumped 
the three territories together in a log-rolling scheme. Instead of 
taking action on the slavery question, it dodged and recommended 
that the matter be referred to the Supreme Court of the United 
States. This was a crafty plan, and it failed by a miracle. The court 
was a strong pro-slavery body, and although its members were pure 
and high-minded men, they were biased, and so strongly tinctured 
with slavery ideas that, had they sat on this question, Oregon, Califor 
nia,, and New Mexico would have been doomed to slavery, or the final 
struggle might have been precipitated then. It is not necessary to 
add that the anti-slavery senators fought this bill resolutely, and the 
main discussion was on the abstract and concrete questions that sla 
very involved. Mr. Hamlin s speech differed somewhat from the 


general order of remarks heard in the Senate. While he denounced 
the institution of slavery with characteristic bluntness and force, his 
speech is more interesting as an exposition of the character of the 
bill. In this respect it is one of the best to be found in the " Con 
gressional Record." He condemned the bill as a fraud, a snare, and 
a delusion. The speech was widely circulated in pamphlet among 
the anti-slavery documents of the time. 

This was the year of 48, " the year of revolutions," when a demo 
cratic movement swept over Europe and seemed to presage the 
springing up of republican institutions all over the Old World. Mr. 
Hamlin, in opening his remarks, pictured in a few terse sentences the 
contrast afforded. 

" It is indeed startling," said he, " that in the middle of the nineteenth 
century, in this model republic, with the sun of liberty shining upon us, 
and while the governments of Europe are tottering to their base from 
the lights reflected from our own, and while they are striking down the 
shackles of tyranny over the minds of men, we have been gravely discuss 
ing the proposition whether we will not create by law the institution of 
human slavery in territories now free. Such is the question in direct terms 
before us ; such, in fact, is the issue now. Sophistry cannot evade it ; 
metaphysics cannot escape it. ... The crisis is now upon us. ... We 
are about to shape and mould the character of these territories, which in 
time will become a mighty empire. Whether that country shall present 
all the elements of a free government, in which man is elevated as an 
intellectual and moral being, or whether the despotism of slavery shall im 
print its soil, are matters depending entirely on us. We must act. . . . 
The issue cannot be avoided. . . . 

" The bill like the proposition discussed by the Senate does not profess 
to establish slavery by law. It leaves slavery to extend itself by the silent 
operation of the law, without restriction. It does not guaranty slavery ; 
but will it not permit slavery ? And after it has found an existence, will it 
not demand a guaranty? Thus, without inhibition will it not become cer 
tain and fixed by the process of time ? . . . I solemnly believe that this bill 
will allow of the extension of slavery as certainly as if it created slavery in 
express words. The bill, as I understand it, concedes practically all the 
ultra-doctrinaires of the South demand. Let us then erect a barrier to this 
tide of moral evil. ... It will thrill the country like an electric shock when 
it is known that the acquisition of territory from a foreign power necessarily 
subjects it to the institution of slavery, that the flag of this Union carries 
slavery wherever it floats. This is a new principle in the doctrines of sla 
very propagandism. It is not the doctrine of the founders of the republic. 
Democracy has been called progressive, but my word for it, she goes along 
in the old-fashioned stage-coach style, while this doctrine of slavery propa 
gandism has mounted the railroad cars. ... I repeat, it will startle the 
North when it is known that it is gravely announced here that the Consti 
tution of the United States . . carries with it and extends the institution 


of slavery ; that it, in fact, abrogates the laws of the free and gives instead 
the powers of servitude. . . . These doctrines are not to be deduced from 
the Constitution, but are in derogation of its letter and spirit ; that instru 
ment is, in all its terms and in all its scope, an anti-slavery instrument. It 
was conceived, it was enacted, it was approved by the States of this Union, 
not in the spirit of extension or creation of sjavery, but in a spirit which 
looked to the future emancipation of the slave in this country." 1 

With this introduction, Mr. Hamlin discussed the Calhoun dogma, 
that the Constitution contained within its provisions a power to estab 
lish and extend slavery over free territory. This amounted to the 
notion that as the territories belonged to all the people, and as the 
Constitution recognized slavery, it therefore authorized the institution 
in the territories. Mr. Hamlin quoted from articles one and four of the 
Constitution, and showed that it simply recognized slavery as exist 
ing ; it did not provide for the creation or extension of the institution. 
In one instance, the Constitution spoke of slaves as a basis of taxation 
and representation, and in the other with regard to the laws requiring 
the free States to return fugitive slaves. That was all. The falsity 
of the interpretation that the supporters of slavery placed on the Con 
stitution was exposed by Mr. Hamlin in these words : 

"The argument that slavery is recognized by the Constitution is used as 
an equivalent to establishing it. The laws of the State support and main 
tain it," Mr. Hamlin continued, " not the Constitution. It is a state insti 
tution resting on the local law of the State, without the aid, without the 
support, without the maintenance, of the Constitution in any way whatever. 
... If the institution of slavery is one which has its foundation in the 
Constitution, and not one resting upon the laws of the State, where is 
the limit to its extension ? What is the next step in the application of the 
argument ? After you have overrun your territories, what power can pre 
vent the slaveholder from coming into the free States with his slaves ? If 
his right is a constitutional one, if .he rests his claim there, and is cor 
rect, a state law could not affect him, because it would be in conflict with 
the Constitution. . . . The Constitution gives no right, it creates no right; it 
merely recognizes a right which is created by the laws of the State. That 
slavery is a local institution there can be no doubt. The courts of nearly 
all the States have so decided. . . . The moment a slave goes beyond the 
limits of a State where slavery exists, he becomes free. Slavery, therefore, 
must look alone to local laws for its support. 

" I hold that the Constitution in and of itself, and by its express language, 
authorizes Congress to inhibit this institution in our territories. . . . What 
is the language of this clause of the Constitution ? Congress shall have 
power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting 
the territory or other property belonging to the United States. " 

Mr. Hamlin traced the history of this clause. No such power 
1 For example, the slave trade was abolished. 


existed in the articles of confederation, and when the Constitution 
was formed this power was granted to Congress. It was exercised 
by numerous presidents, and declared valid by the Supreme Court. 

" Again," said Mr. Hamlin, " the power is contained in the bill upon 
which we are acting. It continues the laws of Oregon in force for three 
months after the meeting of the legislature. It provides in the territories 
of California and New Mexico that the legislative power shall not pass any 
laws on the subject of religion or slavery. ... If the Constitution was 
silent, as it is not, yet under that power which can acquire we can most 
certainly govern. It matters little where you can find the power to acquire ; 
if you do acquire you must have the power to govern. The first is the 
major, the second is the minor proposition. It would not be good sense to 
contend that we have a power to acquire public domain, and yet could not 
pass needful rules and regulations for its government. . . . Casuists have 
been known to deny their own existence and satisfactorily to prove it to 
their own minds. That may be a plausible and practical doctrine when 
contrasted with the one that we have no power to govern our own terri 
tories. . . . 

" Having the power to act, what is the responsible duty which I feel im 
posed on me ? It is that I should exert all the power which the Constitu 
tion gives to exclude the institution of slavery from our territories now free, 
because it is a social, moral, and political evil. That such is its character 
needs no argument to prove. They are conceded facts supported by the 
declarations and admonitions of the best and wisest men of the South, 

" In thoughts that breathe and words that burn. 

" I would resist the introduction of that institution in justice to a superior 
race of men, men who are capable of a higher state of social and political 
refinement. I would institute such governments as are best calculated to 
advance the true interests of our own Caucasian race, and not degrade the 
dignity of labor by fastening upon it the incubus of slavery. I would resist 
it because I would not invoke or use the name of Democracy to strike 
down as with the iron mace of a despot the principles of social equality 
and freedom. I would not profane the sacred name of Freedom while using 
it to impose a tyranny upon the minds or persons of men. Jefferson has 
said that * God has no attribute which can take sides with us in such a 
cause. The eloquent Pinckney has declared that the earth itself, which 
teems with profusion under the cultivating hand of the freeborn laborer, 
shrinks into barrenness from the contaminating sweat of the slave. Sir, 
my course is a plain one, and clear from all doubt. Our position is un 
questionable. We stand in defense of free soil and resist aggressive 
slavery, and we demand enactments for the protection of free soil against 
this aggression. We will not disturb that institution, but we will stand in 
defense of the freedom of our soil as right in principle and beneficial to 
free white labor in all parts of our common country." 

Mr. Hamlin next discussed compromise, and in connection with 


that subject he revealed again the fraudulent nature of the bill and 
the crooked record of the slave party in dealing with Oregon. He 
briefly related the history of Oregon s efforts to secure a free govern 
ment, and charged the pro-slavery Senate with killing every bill the 
House passed for. Oregon s relief. The Douglas bill had a provision 
inhibiting slavery, but it was recommitted*to the committee of eight, 
and reported back " chained " to other territorial bills, with the anti- 
slavery provision so modified that it secured freedom for Oregon for 
three months only after the first territorial legislature should meet. 

" This bill," said Mr. Hamlin, " is called by some a compromise ; all that 
I can see which entitles it to that name is that it does provide that the laws 
in Oregon which exclude slavery shall remain in force for three months. 
A compromise, indeed ! . . . Why was the law regarding the exclusion of 
slavery not permitted to remain in force until the territorial legislature 
should see fit to change it ? Why abrogate and then compel them to 
change their laws ? Sir, it is not worth the name of compromise. This is 
the fundamental objection : It repeals all the laws of the territory after 
three months, and the seventeenth section provides that All laws passed 
by the legislative assembly shall be submitted to the Congress of the 
United States, and if disapproved, shall be null and of no effect, thus mak 
ing the legislative acts of Oregon depend upon our approval or disapproval. 
Is it not, then, literally true that this bill concedes the free principle to 
Oregon for only three months, after which it must depend on our action 
here ? " 

Mr. Hamlin next exposed two grossly inconsistent features of the 
bill, and the causes of their adoption. One gave Oregon a territorial 
government with the right to elect a legislature ; the other denied 
California and New Mexico a territorial government and legislature, 
but vested all authority in the governors, secretaries, and judges, to 
be appointed by the President, and forbade them passing any laws 
respecting religion and slavery. Mr. Hamlin stigmatized the provi 
sion relating to California and New Mexico as creating an " odious 
oligarchy." He asked : 

" Why adopt one system for Oregon and another for California ? Is it 
said that the people of California are not yet suited to participate in a free 
government or in the enactment of laws ? If such were the fact, why 
wholly exclude them from all rights ? But senators know that even at 
this day there are some five or six thousand American citizens there, and 
they are ruthlessly excluded. Is their capacity for free government to be 
mistrusted ? Is it not rather from the fact that they would set up a free 
government that they are deprived of all power? I know there is a mixed 
population in California ; and so there is in Oregon ; but the same limita 
tions and restrictions which apply in one case can be applied in the other. 
The right of voting has been confined in Oregon to the * free white inhab- 


itants. The same limitations may apply to California. No sound distinc 
tion can be drawn in these cases ; yet a republican government is estab 
lished in one case and an oligarchy in the other. ... Is it not better to 
authorize our own people to participate in this government and allow the 
free Castilian race the same power ? Is it not sound policy as well as cor 
rect in principle ? Will it not fraternize them with our people and our 
government ? On the other hand, without power in the local laws by which 
they are governed, will they not be alien to our Union and un-fraternal to 
our people ? It must not be forgotten that all laws which would be passed 
in California, as in Oregon, would be subject to the approval or disapproval 
of Congress. This system is wholly repugnant to our form of government. 
It is in violation of the fundamental principle which recognizes the consent 
of the governed as the basis of government." 

Mr. Hamlin s most convincing exposition of the artful character 
and insincere purpose of the bill was made when he took up the claim 
that the measure was framed to settle the question of slavery in the 
territories by referring the matter to the Supreme Court of the United 
States from the Supreme Court of the territory. It actually pre 
vented such a reference. He read a clause in the bill which provided 
that appeals from the Supreme Court of the territory should " be 
taken to the Supreme Court of the United States in the same man 
ner, and under the same regulations, as from the Circuit Court of the 
United States." But it happened, as Mr. Hamlin demonstrated, that 
the right of appeal from the Circuit Court to the Supreme Court of 
the United States was granted " where the matter in dispute exceeds 
the sum of two thousand dollars." Thus, slaves that were worth less 
than this sum were barred out from taking an appeal. On this and 
other points Mr. Hamlin said : 

"The settlement of the question of slavery by this bill, it is said, is to be 
determined by the Supreme Court. . . . This is the first instance in the 
history of legislation where a question purely of a historical character has 
been transferred to the judiciary. It is avoiding what necessarily belongs 
to us to determine. Is this the part of wisdom, or manly dignity and firm 
ness, to avoid settlement of a question which is political and which belongs 
to us ? I think not. . . . Suppose slavery steals into the territories, as it will 
(under the bill), how can the slave avail himself of this right of appeal ? 
Who is to aid him in the first instance to obtain his writ of habeas corpus 
on which to try his right to freedom ? And if he should get that process 
and take his first step, how could he appeal ? Who would be his surety ? 
And at the distance of three thousand miles from Washington, by what 
means could he reach the court ? This right of appeal, if it existed by law, 
could have no practical effect whatever. It leaves all unsettled, in fact, 
while two lines in a law we may pass, by simply inhibiting the institution, 
will settle all. ... If it could apply to one case it would be powerless in 
thousands. It is all delusive. It does not allow an appeal at all. 


" How, then, stands the case ? You establish a government in Cali 
fornia ; a governor and secretary are appointed by the President, and three 
judges who are not removable. To them you submit the legislative power 
of the territory; you deny them the power to legislate at all upon the sub 
jects of religion and slavery, even if every person in the territory should 
desire to exclude the latter. You deprive the* people of the right to act at 
a ll 5 you refuse to act here, nearly one half of the Senate denying the 
power to act. Is this not virtually building up a wall around that territory 
which will and which must serve as a protection to that institution ? What 
is the origin of slavery ? It is never created by law ; it steals into territory 
and then claims a law to recognize it. ... It exists by brute force, in vio 
lation of the rights of everything human or divine. . . . 

"Looking to the lights of other days the patriots of other times 
the eloquent warnings which we have from our Washington, Madison, our 
Jefferson, our Mason, aye, and from our Pinckney, too, and all that long 
list of patriotic men of the South who have adorned this Union, who have 
pointed out the evils that would come upon us by perpetuating and extend 
ing this institution, I owe it to the constituents whom I represent, to our 
posterity, to all the toiling millions who are seeking an asylum in our land, 
to embrace this opportunity of opposing, with unshaken firmness, any 
attempt to introduce or permit this institution to flow into any territory 
now free. Let these vast and fertile regions be preserved for the cultiva 
tion of free labor and free men, so well calculated to advance the arts of 
civilization. Do this, and the busy millions of future ages shall bless our 
acts with grateful hearts." 

The story of Oregon s struggle for free soil should be followed to 
the end in order to get a complete idea of the tenacity of the slave 
power in its desire to make Oregon a slave State. The debate con 
tinued for several days, and on the morning of July 22, at eight 
o clock, after a continuous session of twenty-one hours, the compro 
mise bill was passed by eleven majority. Among those who voted 
against this surrender to the slave power were Messrs. Hamlin, Hale, 
John Davis, William Allen, Bradbury, Dayton, Dix, Niles, Corwin. 
Badger, of North Carolina, Bell, of Tennessee, and Metcalfe, of Ken 
tucky, were the only Southern senators who were still obedient to 
their implied duty. 

But Oregon was still to be saved. When the bill was sent to the 
House, Alexander H. Stephens moved that the measure be tabled, and 
his motion prevailed. The bill had a chance of success in the House, 
where the arguments for compromise were potent also. Whether 
Mr. Stephens threw away this opportunity by reason of timidity or 
an attack of mental blindness was a matter of speculation. While 
he did not always serve the slave power blindly, the fact is obvious 
that the cause of freedom in this instance received opportune aid 
from one who was generally allied with the slave party. 


Still the struggle continued. Caleb B. Smith, in February, had 
introduced into the House a bill to organize a territorial government 
in Oregon, and it was passed in March by a large majority, in spite 
of the leaders of the slave party, who objected to its free clause. In 
August, Mr. Douglas introduced this bill into the Senate, with an 
amendment applying the Ordinance of 1787 to Oregon, with the rea 
son, " Inasmuch as said territory is north of the parallel of 36 30 
north latitude, usually known as the line of the Missouri Compromise." 
Once more a bitter debate ensued on the question of slavery the 
alleged rights and wrongs of the North and the South. Mr. Douglas 
told the Senate that the Ordinance of 1787 had been incorporated in 
his bill by the Committee on Territories, in which it was formed, 
because "it desired that no senator should commit himself on the 
great question." But this artful plea induced only two senators to 
vote for the amendment, Mr. Douglas himself and Bright. Yet 
the everlasting merits, virtues, and necessities of compromise were 
again officially brought before the Senate, and that weary body agreed 
by eleven majority to Mr. Douglas s next proposition, to extend the 
Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Ocean. Mr. Hamlin voted 
against this compromise, and it is an instructive and interesting cir 
cumstance that among his companions in this vote were John C. Cal- 
houn and Daniel Webster, the latter having spoken strongly against 
the attempt to rob Oregon of her rights. 

But all this manoeuvring in the Senate went for naught. The 
House, with only three dissenting votes, rejected the compromise 
amendment when it came from the Senate, and the bill was returned. 
The genius, courage, and force of Benton came to the rescue. He 
moved that the Senate recede from the amendment. Perhaps it was 
the indiscreet utterance of John C. Calhoun, that " the great strife 
between the North and South is ended, the separation of the North 
and South is complete," that was the final cause which decided the fate 
of the bill to give Oregon her freedom. At all events, John Bell and 
Sam Houston disavowed Calhoun s sentiments as representative of 
the South, and General Houston was among those who changed their 
votes. The debate continued day and night, until the exhausted 
Senate was driven to close it on August 13, at nine o clock in the 
morning, after an all-night session. At midnight, before the vote 
was taken, the incorrigible Foote announced his ability and intention 
of speaking continuously for two days and nights. The senators 
expressed their willingness to have him try it. He was actually 
speaking at nine o clock the next morning, when debate was shut off. 
Mr. Douglas, General Houston, and a few other senators followed the 
lead of Benton in changing their votes, and by a majority of four 
votes the unprecedented struggle between the anti-slavery and pro- 


slavery parties, that had lasted for many months, was closed, and Ore 
gon was a free territory forever. 

Soon after Mr. Hamlin took his seat in the Senate, he heard of 
Abraham Lincoln, who was serving his first and only term in the 
House of Representatives. Mr. Lincoln did not make much of a 
mark as a legislator or debater ; he was in the House too short a time 
to make his peculiar personality felt to a great extent in shaping legis 
lation. Mr. Hamlin first heard Mr. Lincoln spoken of as a " rattling 
stump orator," the "champion story-teller of the House," and the 
"most striking-looking man in Congress." The general impression 
about Lincoln, as Mr. Hamlin related in subsequent years, was that 
he was the personification of geniality and democracy, a faithful 
worker,, and always ready for a good story. He was often seen in the 
cloak-room of the House tilted back in a chair, with his legs crossed, 
and a crowd around him listening to the fund of interesting and amus 
ing stories that rolled out of him. 

The day Mr. Hamlin made his speech on the compromise bill, he 
observed among his auditors a man who towered up above the out 
siders who crowded the outer aisles of the Senate floor, like an oak in 
a forest of saplings. His appearance was so unusual of immense 
size, loosely hung frame, homely, but expressive face that Mr. 
Hamlin could not fail to note him. Mr. Hamlin knew that it must be 
Lincoln, and he observed that Lincoln followed his speech with appar 
ent interest, nodding his head from time to time, as a sign of approval, 
when Mr. Hamlin made a good point against slavery. 

A few days after this Mr. Hamlin was called into the House, where 
he found Lincoln in the middle of a speech. Part of the speech 
was of the rough-and-tumble order he made in his early days, when 
he was struggling to get a hearing with the masses in Illinois ; but 
the most was pure good-nature. While Lincoln s face was homely, 
and his movements seemed awkward, when his face was lighted up 
with a smile, his countenance took on an appearance of irresistible 
good-humor and frankness, and men felt drawn to him. When he 
reached the heart of his subject, he was bubbling over with fun, and 
had the House completely under the spell of his humor and magnet 
ism. Although Mr. Lincoln was speaking at the expense of the 
Democrats, they enjoyed it immensely. Members crowded around 
him to hear every word he said. He completely dominated the situa 
tion. Mr. Hamlin never forgot this scene, which was a unique illus 
tration of Mr. Lincoln s power over his audiences. When Mr. Hamlin 
entered the House, the future President was saying in his quaint, 
droll way : 

" By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know that I am a military hero ? Yes, 
sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war, I fought, bled, and came away. 


Speaking of General Cass s career reminds me of my own. I was not at 
Stillman s defeat, but I was about as near it as Cass was to Hull s surren 
der ; and like him saw the place very soon afterwards. It is quite certain 
that I did not break my sword, for I had none to break ; but I bent a mus 
ket pretty badly on one occasion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea is he 
broke it in desperation ; I bent the musket by accident. If General Cass 
went in advance of me in picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him 
in charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live, fighting Indians, it 
was more than I did, but I had a good many bloody struggles with the mos 
quitoes ; and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I 
was often very hungry. Mr. Speaker, if I should ever conclude to doff 
whatever our Democratic friends may suppose there is of black cockade 
federalism about me, and thereupon they shall take me up as their candi 
date for the presidency, I protest they shall not make fun of me as they have 
of General Cass by attempting to write me into a military hero." 

Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Lincoln did not meet until after the presiden 
tial campaign of 1860. Almost the first thing Mr. Lincoln said was 
in reference to the speech Mr. Hamlin made on the Oregon Com 
promise Bill. 



WHEN General Zachary Taylor was inaugurated President on March 
4, 1 849, the opponents and supporters of slavery knew that a great 
crisis was imminent, and prepared themselves for the struggle. The 
contest was over the disposition of the territory acquired from Mexico. 
The interests involved were immense, for they included the region 
that now mostly comprises California, New Mexico, Arizona, and 
other territory. Texas, which had also been a part of Mexico, was 
already in the Union as a slave State. Now, as the slave power had 
planned and fought the war with Mexico, its leaders were naturally 
anxious to obtain the results of their scheming. In the waning hours 
of the Polk administration Mr. Calhoun attempted to rush a bill 
through Congress, attached to the general appropriation bill " extend 
ing the Constitution to the ceded territory." Once again, Mr. Cal 
houn enunciated his peculiar doctrine that " the flag carries slavery 
wherever it floats." This was trying to steal a march on the incom 
ing administration. Daniel Webster exposed the flaw in Calhoun s 
argument as applied to the territories by showing that the Constitu 
tion was for the States, not for the territories, and that the latter to 
enjoy its benefits must organize themselves into States. Courtesy 
and fairness to the new administration should have deterred Mr. Cal 
houn from this course ; but he was the genius of the slave power, and 
pressed the issue to a vote. Smarting under defeat, Mr. Calhoun 
called the famous secret meeting of the Southern congressmen, and 
issued his inflammatory address to the South, advising disunion, as 
plainly as he dared, in case the anti-slavery party should succeed in 
saving the new territory from the peculiar institution, under General 
Taylor s administration. 

This was the situation that confronted General Taylor when he 
became President, and very few people knew what he would do. 
Probably no man ever came to the presidency with so little known 
about him as Zachary Taylor. When he was nominated by the Whigs 
for President, they were not sure that he was a good party man. 
Webster denounced the nomination as one " unfit to be made," and 
Clay at first refused to take part in the campaign. He was believed 
by the general public to be a gallant officer, and an honest, rough-and- 


ready kind of a man, and the popular opinion was that he would 
eventually serve as the figurehead to an administration that would 
be conducted by other men. But the leaders of the Whigs who sug 
gested General Taylor as their party candidate were not mistaken in 
their estimate of him. Although he had lived most of his life on the 
frontier, and had never even voted, he was nevertheless well informed 
about public men and measures, and had his own ideas about con 
ducting his administration. Removed from the scene of excitement 
at the national capital, General Taylor had clearly perceived the rock 
towards which the ship of state was drifting. When he took the 
helm he displayed the same sagacity, coolness, judgment, and patri 
otism that had distinguished him as a commander on the battlefield. 

When Congress convened, in December, 1849, f r tne first time 
under President Taylor s administration, the situation was complicated 
by unexpected happenings in California. The discovery of gold on 
the Pacific slope, late in the previous year, had drawn an immense 
army of men thither from the free States and elsewhere. Within a 
marvelously short time, California had more than enough citizens 
within her borders to fulfill the requirements of admission to the 
Union. The presence of lawless adventurers from all parts of the 
world made it necessary to organize a state government at once to 
preserve life and property. A constitutional convention was called ; 
Thomas Butler King, of Georgia, who was in California, and was act 
ing as the agent of the slave power, endeavored to induce the conven 
tion to adopt a constitution permitting slavery to be established in the 
new State. But the free-soil element triumphed, and California asked 
Congress to admit her as a free State. Yet, in spite of the fact that 
the vast majority of the people in California had voted against the 
introduction of the peculiar institution, Mr. Calhoun and his follow 
ers boldly conspired to plant slavery on their soil. Their action 
was all the more indefensible in view of their loud professions to 
be the champions of the old-fashioned Democratic doctrine of per 
sonal liberty. But while the leaders of the slave power at first pro 
claimed their intention of making California a slave State, they finally 
admitted among themselves their inability to accomplish their entire 
purpose, and planned to take California by the throat in order to 
effect a compromise from which they could gain some advantage. In 
brief, their ultimate hope was to force the anti-slavery party into an 
agreement whereby the Missouri Compromise line would be extended 
across the country to the Pacific slope. This would greatly increase 
the area of slavedom, though taking only a part of California. 

President Taylor s action was therefore awaited with great anxiety 
by the entire nation, for the initiative lay with him. He promptly 
acted, and in his first and only annual message to Congress he dealt 


both the slave power and Mr. Calhoun a heavy blow by recommend 
ing the immediate admission of California as a free State, and the 
keeping of New Mexico under military government until it should 
be sufficiently populated to become a State. These were the chief 
features of the message ; the other suggestions it contained need not 
be detailed. A circumstance that increased the anger of the slave 
party was that the President was himself a Southerner and a slave 
holder. An incident that gave the message a bitter personal flavor 
was General Taylor s contemptuous treatment of Mr. Calhoun. It 
leaked out that the Great Nullifier had requested the President-elect, 
through the Secretary of State, Mr. Clayton, to make no references in 
his message to the fears he entertained for the safety of the Union. 
General Taylor s reply was to add a paragraph, in which he empha 
sized his apprehensions, and announced his intention of doing all 
within his power to maintain the integrity of the Union. When the 
slave party took in the full significance of the President s message, 
Congress became a volcano of wrath, and a veritable battle between 
giants was begun over the direct issue of the restriction or extension 
of slavery, when Henry Clay came forward with his famous compro 
mise measures, and changed the course of events. 

Clay was profoundly alarmed over the fierce struggle that was 
raging in Congress, and he returned to the Senate with the hope 
that he might prevent a crisis by effecting a compromise over the 
questions at issue. He came in the role of a peacemaker, and his 
knowledge of the fact that his own end was not far distant gave 
unwonted solemnity and earnestness to his efforts. He knew that he 
was engaged in his last great life s work, and that personally he had 
no material reward to hope for. His mission was honorable, disinter 
ested, and eminently patriotic. He sincerely believed that he could 
divert the danger of disunion, and perhaps settle the slavery question 
on a basis where it might work out a peaceful solution. But the sal 
vation of the Union was his paramount object, and it was in this spirit 
that he offered his compromise measures. These, in brief, provided 
for the admission of California ; the organization of government in 
the remaining territory acquired from Mexico ; adjustment of the 
disputed boundary of Texas, and the allowance of $10,000,000 to that 
State for the payment of her debt ; the abolition of the slave trade in 
the District of Columbia ; more effectual provisions for the recovery of 
fugitive slaves. Mr. Clay s measures of compromise not only at first 
provoked a heated controversy, but also caused a serious breach in his 
own party. President Taylor vehemently opposed Mr. Clay s plan 
and the Southern extremists. Mr. Calhoun s last speech, which was 
read for him in the Senate, rejected the Clay compromise proposition, 
and predicted the coming of disunion. Benton threw his powerful 


weight against Clay ; Webster was for compromise. The President 
remained firm, and a deadlock between Congress and the Executive 
now seemed imminent. 

As the debate waxed fiercer, the radical side of Mr. Hamlin s nature 
became more noticeable, and the causes are of personal and historical 
interest. During the five years Mr. Hamlin had been in Congress, he 
had steadily opposed the encroachments of the slave power, and with 
great mortification he had seen it increase the area of slavedom 
through alliances with Northern congressmen. He repudiated the 
Clay compromise bill, because he was unwilling to compromise his 
principles, and also because he believed that the time had come when 
the anti-slavery people should make a supreme effort to drive the 
slave party away from free soil, even if the disunion element should 
attempt ultimate measures. On general principles, Mr. Hamlin had 
little faith in "the glue of compromise ;" the Clay compromise mea 
sures he regarded as bad and dangerous ; the proposed fugitive slave 
law l was to him an atrocious thing, and he would have opposed the 
omnibus bill on that account alone. But the main consideration with 
Mr. Hamlin now was the necessity of making a final stand against the 
enemy, even if it provoked a crisis. 

There is a glimpse revealed of his heart-felt grievances in the fol 
lowing letter he wrote William P. Haines on May 4, 1849 :- 

" I thank you most truly for your kind appreciation of my course during 
the brief time I have held a place in the Senate. I feel the importance of 
the position, and it shall be my anxious effort to pursue that course which 
shall be neither rash nor diffident upon the slavery question. I can only 
say that my course is taken and will be adhered to, come weal or woe to 
me. ... I will resist firmly but not factiously the extension of human sla 
very into regions where it does not now exist. Your generous approval is 
cheering, and the more so because I have at times felt a terrible pressure 
upon me in my official position. . . . 

" This troublesome question might have been settled long ago if the 
North had honestly and firmly represented, through the press and public 
servants, the sentiment of her people. The South was ready to acquiesce. 
But, alas ! the patronage of the government was thrown into the contest. . . . 
Many Northern men surrendered the right in order to stand well at head 
quarters. . . . But I still look to the future, with faith and confidence that 
the right will triumph over the wrong, and that we and those who come 
after us shall rejoice in the consummation of correct principles. So may 
God in his mercy order it. 

1 Mr. Hamlin, John P. Hale, William H. Seward, and other anti-slavery senators 
did not vote on this measure. Mr. Hamlin was paired, and undoubtedly the others 
were. The Congressional Globe did not record pairs at that time. Mr. Hamlin s 
opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law was known through his speeches, and his 
pair was understood. 


" We have had rich times here. Moral treason, blustering, and gasconade 
have been the Southern staple. Within the past week some severe rebukes 
have been given in the Senate by Clay and by some men in the House. A 
different temper is plainly manifest. The result will be that the North will 
not be frightened by the utterance of such stuff, and those who talk of dis 
union as flippantly as schoolgirls will regret and repent of their course. 
We have had one dissolution convention l at the North, and those who en 
gaged in it acquired an infamy that still clings to them. Those at the South 
who pursue the same course will meet with the same fate. 

" Well, I like Henry Clay ! He is a bold man. I like him for that. He 
is an honest man in my opinion. The rebukes which he gave Foote were 
well timed. He is an anti-slavery man at heart, and really I believe he 
would be an Abolitionist at the North. He goes as far as he can now. . . . 
California will come in and no mistake ! . . . On the admission of Califor 
nia I rather think you may hear from me." 

Although Senator Hamlin was politically opposed to President 
Taylor, and favored an aggressive anti-slavery policy, nevertheless 
circumstances brought him close to the President, and enabled him to 
gauge " Old Rough -and-Ready " at his true worth. Mr. Hamlin was 
first called to the White House on executive business connected with 
the Senate, and it appears that President Taylor and he liked each 
other s prompt way of transacting business. It would also appear 
that the President in these interviews revealed to Mr. Hamlin a more 
intimate knowledge of public men and affairs than it was supposed 
he possessed. After Mr. Hamlin had had several conferences with 
President Taylor, he was surprised one day by receiving a peremp 
tory summons to come to the White House. When Mr. Hamlin 
presented himself, the President, without any preliminary remarks, 
proceeded to address him in his blunt, characteristic way as follows : 

" Senator Hamlin, I know you to be an honest man. You and I 
don t belong to the same party, but I know you well enough now to 
believe that you will give your President your honest advice for his 
own good when he asks it. Now the Whigs in Maine are disputing 
over the patronage, and I want you to tell me who are the best men 
to appoint." 

" Yes, sir, you are my President," replied Mr. Hamlin laughingly, 
" and as a good citizen of this republic I will cheerfully and gladly 
obey your orders, even in assisting you to settle family quarrels in 
your party." 

" Good ! " said " Old Rough-and-Ready " with a laugh, and then 
clasping his hands behind his back, and tilting his head to one side, 
he began to pace up and down the room, discussing the various candi 
dates for office in Maine who had been presented to him. President 
Taylor would discuss the candidates like this : 
1 The Hartford convention. 


"What do you think of this man? Isn t honest? Then I won t 
appoint him. What do you think of that man ? Is n t a good Whig ? 
Then I won t appoint him. These men you say are honest and com 
petent ? Then I will send their names to the Senate." 

This occurred within a short time after Congress had convened, in 
December, 1849, when the debate over California was beginning. 
Not long afterwards, and before Mr. Hamlin had made a public 
declaration of his opinions on the Clay compromises, he received 
another imperative summons from the President. Then a dramatic 
incident occurred that suggests what might have happened if Gen 
eral Taylor had lived out his term, and also explains why Union 
men like Mr. Hamlin had supreme faith in him. As Mr. Hamlin 
was entering the White House he almost ran into Robert Toombs, 
Alexander H. Stephens, and Thomas L. Clingman, who were still 
leaders in the House, and were now high priests in the inner councils 
of the slave power. They came hurriedly out of the President s room 
with angry looks on their faces and talking in loud voices. They 
had every appearance of being thoroughly enraged, and they were so 
engrossed in denouncing some one that they did not see Mr. Hamlin 
at first. When they looked up and recognized him they started, and 
one of them said sharply : " What are you doing here ? " 

Mr. Hamlin was surprised, but his feelings were turned to amaze 
ment when he was forthwith admitted to the President s room and 
saw the chief magistrate of the nation apparently unable to control 
himself. " General Taylor," to quote Mr. Hamlin s words, " was 
rushing around the room like a caged lion ; " his face was almost livid 
with anger ; he was fiercely muttering to himself and shaking his fist 
at imaginary foes. He was so completely carried away by his feel 
ings that he passed Mr. Hamlin three or four times without noticing 
him. But when President Taylor saw Mr. Hamlin he stopped with a 
start, and then rushing up to him, asked, 

" Did you see those damned traitors ? They have been making 
demands concerning my administration, and threatened that unless 
they were acceded to the South would secede. But if there are any 
such treasonable demonstrations on the part of the Southern leaders, 

I will hang them ; them, I will hang them as high as I 

hung spies in Mexico, and I will put down any treasonable movement 
with the whole power of the government, if I have to put myself at 
the head of the army to do it." 

" Mr. Hamlin, what are you doing in the Senate with the omnibus 
bill ? " 

" Mr. President," replied Mr. Hamlin, " I believe the bill wrong in 
principle, and am doing what I can to defeat it." 

"That is right," rejoined President Taylor, his excitement breaking 


out again; "stand firm; don t yield ; it means disunion, and I am 
pained to learn that we have disunion men among us. Disunion is 
treason ; and if the disunionists attempt to carry out their schemes 
while I am President, I will hang them." 1 

Taylor was in no mood to transact the business for which he 
had sent for Mr. Hamlin, and the latter, "perceiving it, quickly with 
drew, after warmly commending the President for his firmness, and 
expressing his own opinion of the actions of the disunionists. As 
Mr. Hamlin was coming out of the White House, he met Thurlow 
Weed, of New York, 2 one of the powers of the Whig party. Mr. 
Weed was close to General Taylor, and Mr. Hamlin, knowing that, 
stopped long enough to tell him that he would find him greatly 
agitated. Mr. Weed at once hurried to the President s room and 
found him still excited. He repeated to Mr. W 7 eed what he had 
told Mr. Hamlin, in almost the same language, assuring Mr. Weed 
of his intention to check any disunion movement that might be set 
on foot while he was President. Then President Taylor added some 

1 Condensed accounts of this incident are published in Wilson s Rise and Pall 
of the Slave Power, vol. ii. p. 529, and Thurlow Weed s Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 178. 

2 Thurlow Weed wrote Mr. Hamlin as follows : 

NEW YORK, Aug. 8th, 1876. 

DEAR MR. HAMLIN, You will have seen, I suppose, that Messrs. Stephens 
and Toombs deny that there was a stormy interview between themselves and Gen 
eral Taylor on the occasion to which I referred in a letter to the Herald. In my 
reply to Mr. Stephens (which I hope you saw), I found evidence that both gentle 
men made disunion speeches on the subject and the occasion in question. And in 
reply to Mr. Stephens s statement that he and his colleague (Mr. Toombs) "fa 
vored the admission of California," I proved by the record that Mr. Toombs 
voted against such admission, and that Mr. Stephens was absent or did not vote. 

I think that Mr. Stephens and Toombs base their denial on the ground that 
they did not require General Taylor to veto a bill that had not passed. Mr. 
Toombs says that he and Mr. Stephens had " earnest " conversations with Gen 
eral Taylor about the policy of his administration. That policy, you will remem 
ber, had been enunciated in an executive message. 

You met Messrs. Stephens, Toombs, and Clingman coming out of the White 
House. I met them passing from the house to the avenue. You saw General 
Taylor before I did. Will you favor me with your recollection of what General 
Taylor said to you on that occasion, that I may make your letter a part of my 
response to Mr. Stephens. 

The struggle between freedom and slavery during that session of Congress was 
the "beginning of the end." Had General Taylor lived, the "Compromise Mea 
sures," including the atrocious Fugitive Slave Law, would have encountered a veto. 
That might have precipitated the rebellion. You and I know with what devoted 
courage and patriotism General Taylor would have stood by the Union. 

The presidential ticket unites all phases and shades of opposition to bogus 
Democracy in this State, supplemented by a good state ticket. New York may 
be "scored " for Hayes and Wheeler. 

Very truly yours, 



information that was of peculiar interest in the light of subsequent 
events. 1 He said that the ultra members of Congress from the 
Southern States had presumed on his acquiescence in their views be 
cause he was a Southern man and a slaveholder ; that before he had 
been placed in a position that made it his duty to examine both sides 
of the question, he had entertained and expressed views differing 
widely from his then sentiments. Relying on the assurances of 
distinguished Southern statesmen that the North was "aggressive," 
and that the compromises of the Constitution were in danger, he had 
written a letter to his son-in-law, Jefferson Davis, saying that he 
was ready to stand with the South in maintaining all the guarantees 
of the Constitution ; but that since it had become his duty to look 
carefully into the merits of the controversy, he had satisfied himself 
that the exactions and purposes of the South were intolerant and 
revolutionary. He added that he regarded Davis as the chief con 
spirator in the scheme which Toombs, Clingman, and Stephens had 

In a letter to Mr. Weed, General A. Pleasanton presented some 
significant testimony that throws further light on President Taylor s 
feelings about the disunion element and the measures he proposed to 
adopt to check it. General Pleasanton served under General Taylor in 
the Mexican war, and when ordered, in June, 1850, to rejoin his com 
mand in New Mexico called on the President, who said to him, 

" I am glad you are going to New Mexico. I want officers of judgment 
and experience there. These Southern men in Congress are trying to 
bring on a civil war. They are now organizing a military force in Texas 
for the purpose of taking possession of New Mexico and annexing it to 
Texas, and I have ordered the troops in New Mexico to be reinforced, and 
directed that no armed force from Texas be permitted to go into that terri 
tory. Tell Colonel Monroe " (commanding in New Mexico) " that he has 
my entire confidence, and if he has not force enough to support him " (and 
then his features assumed the firmest and most determined expression) " I 
will be with you myself ; but I will be there before those people shall go 
into that country to have a foot of that territory. The whole business is 
infamous and must be put down." 

Mr. Hamlin paid as close attention as he could to the California 
question, from its inception in the previous session of Congress until 
its settlement in this session. He took no part in the debate, how 
ever, until it was prolonged into March, when he arose to speak, chiefly 
for the purpose of exposing the tortuous line of argument the Southern 
senators had pursued, and the glaring inconsistency of their course. 
It must be admitted that although the Southern senators were on the 

1 See History of the United States from the Compromise of iSjo, by James 
Ford Rhodes, vol. i. p. 134. 


wrong side of the California question, they nevertheless made the 
most of a poor case. The debate from day to day was a brilliant 
contest between brilliant men, but in its entirety the Southern argu 
ment against the admission of California was an extraordinary record 
of inconsistency and bold quibbling. The slave power tore California 
from Mexico to make a new slave State, and when her people organ 
ized a free state government, the slave party would have denied Cali 
fornia admission for the alleged reasons that it would not be lawful 
to admit California, because Congress had not granted her permission 
to form a constitution ; that aliens had voted at the election when 
the people of California proposed to organize a state government ; 
that there was not a sufficiently large population to warrant Congress 
to give California statehood, and also that the territory of California 
was too large for a State. 

These claims Mr. Hamlin answered by the facts of history. Up to 
the time of the debate more States had been admitted to the Union 
without an enabling act of Congress, and it was also shown that no 
objection had been raised to the admission of Texas and other States 
on the score of an alleged insufficient population, or undue extent of 
territory, or voting of aliens. But whenever beaten on these lines, 
the Southern senators would return with greater vehemence to the 
general plea that slavery should be extended to California, to "pre 
serve the equality of the States," and also to " maintain the principle 
of non-intervention." Now, while the senators who were fighting the 
slave party undoubtedly had the better of the argument, it neverthe 
less appears from a careful reading of their speeches that they failed 
to see the fundamental flaw in the slave party s attitude towards Cali 
fornia ; if they did see it, they did not take advantage of their oppor 
tunity to place their opponents in an embarrassing position. Mr. 
Hamlin observed this flaw, and on March 5, 1850, the day after Mr. 
Calhoun s last speech was heard in the Senate, he took the floor to 
show the slave party that it had forgotten one important fact, that 
California was applying for admission into the Union under precisely 
the very conditions the slavery leaders, including Mr. Calhoun, had 
laid down the year before. 

Mr. Hamlin s speech was widely commented on in the newspaper 
press, and in several New England publications little pictures of the 
scene that was presented form an interesting preface to Mr. Ham 
lin s remarks. His style and manner of speech-making had consid 
erably changed from the time he entered the House at thirty-three, 
fresh from the farm and country courts, with defects in style pardon 
able in one who had had an incomplete education. He spoke in a 
plainly worded way with the evident purpose of making a very com 
plicated problem clear to the average understanding. One corre- 


spondent, commenting on Mr. Hamlin s simple method of speech-mak 
ing, wrote : " The argument was clear and luminous throughout, and 
showed that Mr. Hamlin was not only a master of the subject, but 
had authentic facts and evidence to prove his position. It was decid 
edly the most logical and forcible argument that I have heard or 
read on this side of the question, and amounted to a demonstration 
that California ought to be admitted without unnecessary delay. 
These manly and patriotic sentiments, though unsavory to some of 
the ultra Southern members, were pronounced in such a spirit of 
courtesy and good taste as to conciliate rather than to offend, cannot 
fail to have a good effect in settling the great question amicably for 
the best interests of the country. . . . Mr. Hamlin was listened to 
with profound attention from all parts of the House. This speech 
will place him on lofty ground as a statesman of enlarged and com 
prehensive views, worthy of the confidence of the nation." 

Another correspondent wrote : " The Southern members were un 
usually restive under his remarks, and with their accustomed courtesy 
interrupted Mr. Hamlin with interrogatories, until, finding him armed 
at all points and a little too caustic for their comfort, they concluded 
to submit to their chastisement with as good a grace as they could. 
. . . Mr. Hamlin s friends are jubilant. I understand they at once 
subscribed for five thousand copies for public circulation." 

In opening his remarks, Mr. Hamlin maintained that there should 
be only one subject before the Senate in the current debate, and that 
was the admission of California into the Union. He commented, in 
passing, on the unparalleled opposition which had been offered to 
California, and enumerated the irrelevant subjects that, had been 
brought into discussion, slavery, the formation of territorial govern 
ments, and the boundary of Texas. He said these questions should 
be legitimately submitted to the Senate for action in their proper 
places, and that they should not be permitted to delay the admission 
of California into the Union. He reminded the Senate that the peo 
ple of California had rights, and they asked no entangling alliances. 
Mr. Hamlin was therefore opposed to submitting all these questions 
to the special committee appointed at Mr. Clay s request, and favored 
referring the California question to the proper committee in accordance 
with Colonel Benton s plan, with instructions to disconnect all unre 
lated subjects, that the Senate might then act only on the admission 
of California. 

But while Mr. Hamlin desired to pursue the main theme of his 
argument, he paused to rebuke the cry of disunion which had been 
raised during the debate, and to charge point-blank that the purpose 
was to frighten the country into a state of alarm wherein the con 
spirators hoped they might accomplish their objects. "There need 


be no alarm," said Mr. Hamlin ; " this Union will stand as a monument 
of grandeur, glory, and greatness long after every senator here shall 
have crumbled into dust. The affections of our people will cling to it 
and sustain it in spite of the madness of party and politicians." 

Mr. Hamlin then proceeded to the rea> question, "whether a new 
sister State should be added to the Union." He examined first the 
rights of the people of California to form a constitution, and next the 
duty of Congress, in order to answer the quibbles of the slave party 
that the people of California had no right to erect a state govern 
ment without a preliminary permission from Congress. Mr. Hamlin 
asserted that the people of California had proceeded in the right way, 
and he showed that they had acted in accordance with precedent, and 
had not violated the Constitution. He demonstrated, moreover, that 
the initiative in organizing a state government resided in the people 
of a territory, and that it was only within the jurisdiction of Congress 
to act upon the admission of a State. Article four, section three, of 
the Constitution says: "New States may be admitted by the Con 
gress into this Union," which means that Congress cannot "create" 
a State. Mr. Hamlin pursued this line farther to show that the Con 
stitution was not only silent as to the power of creating a State, but 
that the constitutional convention did not even consider such a ques 
tion. Madison, in the forty-third number of the " Federalist," wrote, 
" The eventual establishment of new States seems to have been over 
looked by the framers of the instrument (the Constitution)." 

In connection with this, and before citing his precedents in support 
of California s action, Mr. Hamlin embarrassed the pro-slavery sen 
ators by reading them their own opinions on the power of Congress 
in the matter of "creating States," as expressed by the Judiciary 
Committee at the previous session of the Senate, when the question 
of admitting California first arose. This opinion was delivered by 
Senator Berrien, of Georgia, who was now opposing the admission of 
California, and it was in part as follows : " The power conferred by 
the Constitution on Congress is to admit new States, not to create 
them. According to the theory of our government, the creation of 
a State is an act of popular sovereignty, not by ordinary legislation. 
It is by the will of the people of whom the State is composed, 
assembled in convention, that it is created." Mr. Hamlin emphasized 
his advantage by expressing his belief that this opinion was a doctrine 
to which he subscribed, because it was the doctrine of the Constitu 

The fact must be borne in mind that the year before the anti- 
slavery senators proposed to authorize California to erect a state 
government, and the pro-slavery senators checkmated them by assert 
ing, through the Judiciary Committee, that the people of California 


should take the lead. Their private reason was that the slave power 
was making desperate efforts to carry the territorial election in Cali 
fornia and put a pro-slavery clause in her constitution. But now 
that this effort had been defeated and the situation changed, Judge 
Berrien and his friends did not enjoy the grim irony of fate. To 
admit that the opinion of the Judiciary Committee was good doctrine 
now was to admit that California had fulfilled all requirements for 
admission, and that those who were opposing her admission stulti 
fied themselves by so doing. Judge Berrien was in the worst plight 
of all the pro-slavery senators, because he was responsible for the 
advantage Mr. Hamlin had. He interrupted Mr. Hamlin precipi 
tately, and propounded an evasive question which " ran up a squirrel 

" Is it the purpose of the senator," he asked, " to deduce from that 
report the inference that it was the opinion of the Judiciary Committee 
that it belonged to the territories, without the sanction of Congress, to 
erect themselves into States ? If so, he misunderstands that report. The 
sovereignties, in the view of that committee, only become incipient with 
the authorization of Congress to form a constitution. When that authoriza 
tion is obtained, then, and not until then, the territory can proceed to act in 
the erection of a State and the formation of a government and constitution." 

Mr. Hamlin replied : " I do not think that there was any necessity for the 
honorable senator from Georgia to interrupt me. I speak in all kindness. 
I was not speaking of the power of the territory to erect a territorial or a 
state government, whether authorized by Congress or not, but of the power 
of Congress to create a state government. I quoted the report made by 
the senator from Georgia for that and no other purpose ; but, taking the 
language of that report, I must be permitted to declare that I find in it no 
such explanation as that which the senator has just now seen fit to give us. 
It is undoubtedly right for the senator from Georgia to make any explana 
tion he may now deem fit ; but the report itself nowhere affirms or denies 
the power of the people of the territories to erect themselves into a State 
without the previous assent of Congress ; nor does it claim that such 
assent must be given. That belongs to the explanation of the senator from 

Senator Berrien replied : "That was not the question before the com 
mittee. It was, whether an unauthorized body could erect a State." 

This was a palpable evasion of the point at issue, and Mr. Hamlin 
answered : 

" That report has been quoted for the purpose I have already stated ; 
but I propose to inquire into the very point which the senator from Georgia 
has suggested in his interruption. 

" My first proposition is that Congress has not the power to create a 
State. My second, that the people of this territory of California have. 
Congress having failed to make a territorial government for the people of 


California, it is clearly within the power of the people inhabiting that ter 
ritory to create a state government, as they have already done, to present 
their constitution here and ask to be admitted as one of the sovereign 
States. They are the persons to act, not we ; they are the persons more 
directly interested, and who have the poweik California has acted from 
right as well as from necessity. . . . We have been told in these halls that 
we have no power to create a territorial government. That is one doc 
trine. Another is, now, that the people of the territory have no power to 
erect themselves into a State. Taking both propositions, and presenting 
them to the people of a territory, we may ask in what manner can they 
institute a state government? Or in what manner can they become a part 
of this Union ? We speak, sir, in just praise of the character of our coun 
try, its influence upon other nations and other people ; but to my mind 
there is no single feature in all our government better calculated to spread 
abroad its true character, there is no incident in the history of our peo 
ple, our government, of which we maybe more justly proud, than the 
institution of this government in California among a people assembled 
there from every State of the Union, virtually without law. 

" And when it was declared that the bowie knife and the revolver would 
be the common law of the land, they, in obedience to the ... lessons of 
civil government, and the rights of which they had learned while citizens 
of the States, they assembled themselves together, and from the existing 
necessity erected themselves into a State. ... No other people on the 
face of this globe thus brought together, save those who have been edu 
cated in our States, . . . would have thus formed themselves into a State. 
. . . Without that education and training they received in the States, the 
bowie knife and the revolver would have been the common law of their 
land. It is, indeed, a sublime spectacle to witness the order and deport 
ment of these people. It should excite a just pride in every breast, and 
create a living faith in the capacity of man for self-government. 

" Now, sir, I hold that the people of that territory have by the law of 
nature, by that law which God gave to man, a right to form themselves into 
a government for the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happi 
ness. Our government is based upon that right ; its foundations are laid 
deep and broad upon that principle. It was the assertion of that princi 
ple, the right of the people to self-government, the right to institute a 
government to suit themselves, a government to protect their lives, liberty, 
and property, it was in recognition of that principle that the first blood 
of the Revolution fertilized the soil of Lexington. It was in recognition 
of that principle that the declaration of 1776 was signed. It was in recog 
nition of that principle that this government was reared . . . and is this 
day sustained. . . . 

" Sir, allow me to read from the Declaration of Independence : We hold 
these truths to be self-evident : that all men are created equal ; that they 
are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights ; that among 
these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ; that to secure these 
rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers 


from the consent of the governed ; that whenever any form of government 
becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or 
abolish it, and to institute a new government. . . . 

" It is too late to controvert these doctrines. . . . They have been incor- 
porated as the fundamental principle of the State. The senator from 
Alabama (Clement C. Clay, Jr.), if I understood him the other day, contro 
verted and denied these propositions. Allow me to read from the Consti 
tution of Alabama : * All political power is inherent in the people, and all 
free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their 
benefit ; and, therefore, they have at all times an inalienable and indefea 
sible right to alter, reform, or abolish their form of government in such 
manner as they may think expedient (Mr. Hamlin emphasized the word 
abolish in order to show Southern authority for the course the people 
of California had in abolishing the military government that had been estab 
lished in their territory in order to form a state government). 

" I will also read from the Constitutions of Arkansas and Maine : All 
power is inherent in the people. . . . They have at all times an unqualified 
right to alter, reform, or abolish their governments in such manner as they 
think proper Constitution of Arkansas. All power is inherent in the 
people. . . . They have, therefore, an unalienable and indefeasible right to 
institute government, to alter, reform, or totally change the same, when 
their safety and happiness require it, Constitution of Maine. 

" Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, 
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, 
Ohio, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, 
and other States affirm the same sovereign and unlimited capacity of the 
people to form their constitutions. Now, we are told that the people of 
California, having been denied by Congress any government, have no right 
to erect themselves into a State. The right of a people to form a State in 
such a case is a proposition which I do not see fit to argue. ... I prefer 
rather to give authorities and precedents." 

Mr. Hamlin next patiently reviewed the charge that President Tay 
lor had interfered in the California election, and had inspired General 
Riley, the military governor of the territory, to take the lead in calling 
a state convention. This charge was trivial, almost frivolous, and the 
feet that the slave party should press it shows how it grasped at 
straws. The immense activity the people of California manifested 
in organizing a state government evidenced a spontaneous desire to 
make California a State. When Mr. Hamlin showed how vague and 
conflicting the evidence of executive interference was, Senator King, 
of Alabama, and Senator Downs, of Louisiana, interrupted to inter 
pose their inferences and hearsay evidence no facts. But Mr. Ham 
lin was armed at these points ; he produced General Riley s procla 
mation, and the correspondence of Thomas Butler King, which proved 
that General Riley had issued his proclamation long after the people 
of California bad called their primary meetings, and before Mr. King 


arrived in California, the first man to go to that territory from 
Washington after General Taylor had become President, and himself 
an agent of the slave power ! There were no more questions or inter 
ruptions from the Southern senators on this score, and Mr. Hamlin 
took up the next point. 

This was the claim that the constitutional election in California 
was void on the grounds that aliens had voted. Mr. Hamlin not only 
demonstrated that, under the treaty with Mexico, Mexicans who chose 
to live in California were to be regarded as American citizens and 
therefore had a right to vote, but that it was the custom among the 
territories in forming state governments to allow alien citizens to cast 
their ballots. He produced voluminous evidence to establish this fact, 
mentioning the cases of Maine, Illinois, and Michigan, without com 
ment or criticism ; but he took occasion to say in passing, that this 
was a question which the territories should decide, and had decided, 
for themselves ; it was the first time he had heard it raised in Con 
gress, when objection was made to the custom. 

Mr. Hamlin turned now to review the history of numerous States 
which had organized their respective governments without the per 
mission of Congress, and had been admitted into the Union. There 
were nine, Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maine, Arkansas, Michi 
gan, Florida, Texas, and Iowa. Eight had been admitted with a 
previous act of Congress, and thus the rule up to the present sanc 
tioned the act of California. Mr. Hamlin in connection with this 
briefly cited the facts in the case of the nine States ; and his remarks 
on the action of Tennessee were of special interest. John C. Cal- 
houn, in his speech the day before, had asserted that Tennessee had 
applied for admission to the Union without the permissory act of 
Congress, and for that reason had been remanded back to a territorial 
condition. Mr. Calhoun claimed that California afforded a parallel 
case, and argued that on this account Congress should deny her ad 

Mr. Hamlin took sharp issue with Mr. Calhoun, and by reciting the 
historical facts proved that Mr. Calhoun had made an egregious blunder. 
Mr. Hamlin stated that Tennessee was ceded to the United States 
by North Carolina, with the provision that she should be admitted to 
the Union when she had a population of sixty thousand inhabitants. 
That condition was fulfilled in 1796, and Tennessee, forming a con 
stitution and fixing her own boundary without the consent of Con 
gress, applied for admission into the Union. The Constitution was 
presented to the Senate accompanied by a message from the Presi 
dent. Both these circumstances occurred in the case of California. 
A committee from the Senate recommended that Tennessee be re 
manded back to a territorial condition inasmuch as there had been no 


census taken by the government in that territory, and also because 
Congress had not yet decided how many States should be made out 
of Tennessee. But the House refused to concur in this action, the 
Senate receded from its position, and Tennessee was brought into the 

The most interesting thrust Mr. Hamlin made at Mr. Calhoun was 
in reading the following extract from the latter s speech of February, 
1849: " Sir, I hold it to be a fundamental principle of our political 
system, that the people have a right to establish what government 
they may think proper for themselves ; that every State about to 
become a member of this Union has a right to form its government 
as it pleases ; and that, in order to be admitted, there is but one quali 
fication, and that is the government shall be republican. There is 
no express provision to that effect, but it results from that important 
section which guarantees to every State in this Union a republican 
form of government." 

In commenting on Mr. Calhoun s change of position, Mr. Hamlin 
said that he had encouraged the people to go to California to do the 
very thing they had done. He added that he could continue to 
quote until the sun went down from Southern statesmen, orators, and 
newspapers, who professed their willingness to leave this question of 
slavery to the people of the territory. After having encouraged the 
people of California to take this step, it was too late to resist the 
admission of their State. 

One of the most transparent objections raised to California was 
that her territory was too large for one State. Mr. Hamlin turned 
this objection to advantage by asking the Southern senators why they 
had not protested against the admission of Texas on the same score. 
No complaints or objections against Texas on account of her size 
were even heard, and yet if the boundaries of Texas, which were in 
dispute, should be compressed into their narrowest limits, Texas would 
yet remain larger than California, and be able to support a population 
ten times larger. As to the charge that California had an insufficient 
population, Mr. Hamlin asked why Mr. Clay, of Alabama, had passed 
over the case of Florida, which had less than 50,000 inhabitants 
when she applied for admission ; and he also asked why objections 
were not made to Texas on the same score, when she sought entrance 
into the Union with a population of about 80,000. California, from 
reliable information, had a population of from 1 10,000 to 120,000, and 
it was increasing with astonishing rapidity. 

In closing, Mr. Hamlin briefly declared that the facts of the case 
warranted the immediate admission of California, and that he thought 
there was only one question to be determined, and that was whether 
the Constitution presented was republican. He believed that it was, 


and that it was evidence of the character of her people, who were 
worthy and intelligent men who had gone to their new home to 
build up a republic and make it one of the marts of commerce which 
shall connect us with the distant East. " They have gone there and 
asserted their rights as citizens," Mr. Hamiin concluded, "and have 
come here asking us to admit them into this Union. That, sir, is the 
real question for our decision, and I have no doubt that California is 
to be welcomed into this Union, and that her star is to stud with 
other stars our national flag." 

Of the numerous comments on Mr. Hamiin s speech, the following 
from the Washington correspondence of the " New York Evening 
Post," William Cullen Bryant, editor, is selected to show the effect of 
the speech on the anti-slavery press and people of the times : 

" Mr. Hamiin addressed the Senate at length, and made one of the most 
able and eloquent pleas for the immediate unconditional admission of Cali 
fornia yet heard in either branch of Congress. Mr. Hamiin took an early 
occasion to correct Mr. Calhoun in his misstatement of facts yesterday, but 
Mr. Calhoun did not think it expedient to defend his own assertions, 
though they were not yet a day old ; and it was very remarkable that when 
Mr. Hamiin contradicted Mr. Calhoun s statement respecting the admis 
sion of Tennessee, neither of the senators from that State saw fit to sustain 
the South Carolina senator. 

" Mr. Hamiin showed, by a mass of evidence that cannot be evaded or 
resisted, that neither the present nor the late administration had exerted 
any influence to prevent the adoption of the anti-slavery clause of the Con 
stitution (of California), and he took the last plank from beneath the feet 
of his opponents by quoting from their own previous declarations to prove 
that California now presented herself for admission under the very condi 
tions which they themselves prescribed a year ago. 

" I own I was surprised to see him catch even Mr. Calhoun in this awk 
ward predicament. Following Mr. Calhoun through his tortuous career 
on these territorial questions, he brought to the attention of the Senate a 
paragraph from a speech of his in February, 1849, in which he declared 
himself ready to receive California with open arms and clasp her to his 
heart, when her own people came here with institutions established by their 
own free will and congenial to their ideas and wishes, provided only her 
government was republican in form. 

" Upon the whole, I consider this speech of the senator from Maine 
one of the most satisfactory refutations yet delivered of the special plead 
ings by which it is sought now to exclude California. As an argument it 
covers the whole ground, and seems to me unanswerable. Mr. Hamiin has 
established by his effort of to-day a reputation of one of the first debaters 
in the Senate." 

William Pitt Fessenden, then preparing to enter public life, wrote 
to Mr. Hamiin : 


" I Congratulate you on your speech, which is highly spoken of, and 
which I have read, so far as it has appeared in the i Argus. I like it 
very much. It gives much better satisfaction to men of all parties here than 
Mr. Webster s. If you have a copy to spare, I should like much to receive 

The next speech the Senate heard was one of momentous interest. 
This was Webster s memorable yth of March speech. The great 
expounder was filled with fear, and he launched his thunder not at 
the slavery propagandists, but at the abolitionists and the anti-slavery 
people ; he held them responsible for the agitation, and he supported 
the Clay compromise measures as the surest means of saving the 
Union from the danger that threatened it. Webster s speech fell 
on the opponents of slavery extension like a clap of thunder from 
the clear sky. They received it as a recantation of principle, the 
ruin of a noble career, and the turning back of the hands on the clock 
of time. In their sore grief they charged Webster with bidding for 
Southern support for the presidency. Old friends fell away from 
him ; and yet the effect of his speech was to turn Northern sentiment 
towards compromise. Webster s sun went down, and his defeat for 
the presidency in 1852 probably broke his heart. 

This speech is of both historical and personal interest to these 
pages. It is to be noted that Webster, in the course of his remarks, 
took occasion to refer to Mr. Hamlin s speech on California, and also 
to compliment him on his opposition to the annexation of Texas. 
But there was little in common between the two men, and their rela 
tions were purely functionary. Then, again, Webster was a Whig, 
and had been long in public life, while Mr. Hamlin was compara 
tively a beginner. Yet Mr. Hamlin s opinions of Webster and his 
course at this juncture are interesting. In the main he coincided in 
the latter-day verdict that Webster was influenced almost wholly by 
patriotic motives. His passion was his overwhelming love for the 
Union, and his great mind clearly saw the conflict impending that 
broke only ten years later. He wished to avert it ; he feared strife ; 
he could not take the public entirely into his fears without incurring 
the danger of precipitating a crisis. He deliberately imperiled his 
great name and fame in what he sincerely believed to be a patriotic 
cause. His paramount object was the salvation of the nation; all 
else, even his own career, was subsidiary. 

But while Mr. Hamlin at the time of Webster s departure recog 
nized his main motive, he nevertheless was of the opinion that he 
erred. He criticised Webster s lack of courage to meet the emer 
gency with firmness, and place the responsibility where a Southern 
President and slaveholder said it belonged. Mr. Hamlin also criti 
cised Webster s morals. He always severely reflected on his loose 


financial habits, and his notion that it was right for him to advocate 
private bills in the Senate for pay. "A man," said Mr. Hamlin, 
"who is careless about money matters cannot always be honest." 
But he rarely failed, out of his sense of justice, to mitigate his criti 
cism of Webster by praising his great life s work in expounding the 
Constitution, which, as has been happily said, " had the force of con 
stitutional amendments." 

The sudden death of General Taylor and the accession of Millard 
Fillmore to the presidency secured the success of the Clay com 
promise bill. It will probably always be a fascinating subject of spec 
ulation among historians as to the results of President Taylor s policy, 
had he lived to enforce it. It seems reasonable to conclude that his 
ability, courage, and military experience would have made him master 
of the situation. It is easy to see that Mr. Fillmore did not possess 
the strength and alertness necessary to meet an emergency similar to 
that which threatened General Taylor. Mr. Fillmore signed the Fugi 
tive Slave Law, although he had been identified with the anti-slavery 
wing of the Whig party, and for that reason was nominated for Vice- 
President. Later generations that can have no partisan feelings about 
this probably will extend to Mr. Fillmore the same consideration they 
extend to his counselor, Daniel Webster. This generous view of the 
case would at least incline them to believe that it was Mr. Fillmore s 
natural conservatism, timidity, and lack of strength which governed 
him in his course rather than personal ambition. But whatever were 
his motives, the facts remain that he was not called on to meet the 
crisis, and that the Fugitive Slave Law, for which he was partially 
responsible, became a great factor in educating the masses of the 
North against the iniquities and horrors of slavery. It was reserved 
for another man to appear when the hour of action arrived. Mr. 
Hamlin spoke of Mr. Fillmore personally as a clean, upright, dignified 
man, of an imposing presence and naturally genial disposition. His 
mental habits were somewhat sluggish, but he was a man of ability, 
and with the exception of his course towards the compromises of 1850 
gave the country a good administration. 

One more incident remains to be related in connection with Mr. 
Hamlin s work in this session of Congress, which closed his first term 
as a senator. A movement was in progress to abolish the brutal cus 
tom of flogging that still existed in the navy. John P. Hale was the 
foremost leader in Congress in this move, and Mr. Hamlin heartily 
cooperated with him. There was decided opposition. The general 
objection against abolishing flogging was the plea that the officers of 
the navy favored it. There were also senators who maintained that 
Congress had no right to interfere with the discipline of the navy. 
Mr. Hamlin rejected both these arguments. He favored the abolish- 


ment of flogging on humane principles, and also because he had 
obtained authoritative information that in the opinion of the most 
intelligent and efficient officers of the navy this mode of punishment 
was detrimental to the service. One of his authorities was the Rev. 
Walter Colton, who had been for many years a chaplain in the navy, 
and was a writer of considerable popularity in his day. Mr. Colton 
had served under Commodore R. H. Stockton, and these two were 
prime movers in this humane crusade against a barbarous cruelty. 

Mr. Hamlin made a brief speech in answer to Yulee, of Florida, and 
other Southern senators who opposed the abolishment of flogging. 
The main points he made were that flogging belonged to another age, 
that its abolition was desired by men of all creeds, religions, and poli 
tics, for humane reasons, and that to abolish flogging would make the 
sailor more of a man. Senator Dawson, of Georgia, interrupted Mr. 
Hamlin to assert that there was little sentiment in favor of the bill 
before Congress. Mr. Hamlin replied in amazement : " Well, the bill 
passed the House by a majority of 130, and I should think that that 
represented a sentiment. If it does not, then I should like to have the 
gentleman explain what it does mean or represent." 

Nevertheless, the bill did not pass the Senate. A year or two after 
wards Commodore Stockton entered the Senate, and by tacking a bill 
to abolish flogging in the navy as a rider on another measure, secured 
its passage. Then he resigned from the Senate. 



THE tumult that the compromise measures of 1850 raised, subsided 
after their adoption. Congress was no longer an arena of wrath and 
wrangling, and a more moderate tone prevailed throughout the coun 
try. While the Fugitive Slave Law provoked indignation at the 
North, and served in itself to keep alive the agitation against slavery, 
yet, coming after the tempestuous times that accompanied the dis 
cussion and enactment of the Clay compromise plan, the period that 
followed, and preceded the breaking-down of the Missouri Compromise, 
was one of comparative quietude. But this was not strange. The 
North was governed by its commercial and manufacturing interests, 
and they were alarmed over the conflict the slavery question precipi 
tated in Congress. Capital is proverbially timid. The moneyed inter 
ests of the North demanded a cessation of the strife. There were 
cotton Whigs and conscience Whigs, dough-face Democrats and anti- 
slavery Democrats. To use a common expression, money talked. 
The North might have lapsed into its former condition of cowardly 
indifference to slavery if the Fugitive Slave Law had not remained 
in force to prick its conscience. Both political parties professed 
their willingness to 1 make a fair test of the compromise plan, and 
eventually the acceptance of the measures of 1850 became a test of 
party fealty in both great political organizations. 

When it is borne in mind that the Missouri Compromise was 
repealed in 1854, through the efforts of conspirators, not through the 
movements of events, it is not strange that this comparatively peace 
ful interval misled some of the far-sighted statesmen of the day. It 
is easy to look back over the printed pages of history, and wonder, - 
but the infallible prophet had not yet arrived. While it may not be 
worth while to speculate on what would have happened if the slavery 
propagandists had let the Missouri Compromise alone, it is neverthe 
less interesting to note the attitude of some of the leading men of the 
country. The extreme hopeful view was expressed by Benton when 
he said to Charles Sumner : " You have come on the scene too late, 
sir. Not only have our great men passed away, but the great issues 
have been settled also. The last of these was the United States 
bank, and that has been overthrown forever. Nothing is left you, 


sir, but puny sectional questions and petty strifes about slavery and 
fugitive slave laws, involving no national interests." l Abraham Lin 
coln, who was already recognized as an anti-slavery leader of great 
prominence, said at this time that he was losing his interest in poli 
tics, and that it was not awakened until the attack on the Missouri 
Compromise was begun. John P. Hale, whose term in the Senate 
expired in 1853, left Washington, not to return to New Hampshire 
to resume his fight against slavery, but to go to New York to prac 
tice law in that metropolis. 

Senator Hamlin did not subscribe to the optimistic view his friend 
Benton took, and more will be said on that point later ; but while he 
did not believe that the slavery question was settled by the compro 
mise measures of 1850, he did not foresee or think the conflict would 
be so shortly renewed. His private letters, his words to his intimate 
friends and family, show that he was troubled in mind and brooded 
over the situation. His exact words on several occasions are recalled : 
" This thing of slavery will sooner or later try to subvert the govern 
ment, but I do not expect it will happen in my day." In other 
words, while there were no clouds gathering on the political horizon, 
Mr. Hamlin yet felt that there were elements of a future storm brew 
ing. He pointed out the conditions. Here was slavery ; it had proved 
itself to be a curse ; only evil had come out of it, and he held it to be 
a self-evident proposition that it would continue a source of trouble 
as long as it was allowed to exist. All the compromises in the world 
could not palliate its wickedness, and yet life was vouchsafed it by 
the Constitution. The Fugitive Slave Law was in his eyes an in 
human thing, and was certain to increase Northern repugnance to 
slavery. Two civilizations were growing up in the country and trend 
ing apart. How long could this go on ? This was the question that 
perplexed him. 

The chief reason Senator Hamlin had for believing that the solu 
tion of the problem would not be reached in his day is another striking 
proof of his large faith in men and his strong belief in those whom 
he respected. He hoped that the slave party was now convinced 
that the North would not have the loathsome institution on its soil ; 
he trusted in the honor of Sam Houston, Jefferson Davis, Robert 
M. T. Hunter, Willie P. Mangum, John McPherson Berrien, George 
E. Badger, John Bell, John M. Clayton, Andrew P. Butler, Howell 
Cobb, and other Southern statesmen whom he respected, to abide by 
the law of the land and keep slavery a local institution. He did not 
believe in the fire-eaters, nor did he believe that they represented 
the South. Their threats of disunion were in his eyes the bluster and 
froth of vain, petulant, and overbearing men, and he ignored them. 
1 Ben : Parley Poore s Reminiscences, vol. i. p. 409. 


While there were many red-hot speeches in Congress on the sla 
very question during this interval of three years, they were of an 
intermittent nature, and Congress returned to its duty of attending 
to the regular business of the nation. A business era of vast impor 
tance to the United States had set in, and the best energies of the 
country were now enlisted to meet the requirements of the time. 
The discovery of gold in California marked an epoch in the develop 
ment of our Western domains. Cities, towns, and hamlets sprang up 
on the Pacific slope as if by magic. Great plans were projected for 
establishing rapid communication between the East and the West by 
means of transcontinental railroad lines. Asa Whitney, of New York 
city, who projected in 1846 a railroad across the country, now found 
powerful supporters at Washington. Preparations for a war that broke 
out in the Crimea in 1853 stimulated our foreign trade. There was 
a tentative movement here and there to enlist the aid of the govern 
ment in assisting the American manufacturers to find markets in 
South America for his products. Domestic trade and subsidiary 
interests were generally promoted. But it is designed only to out 
line the salient points in this era of development in order to give an 
idea of the duties that were now pressed on Congress and their effect 
on Mr. Hamlin. The story of his life now takes up a new phase of 
his career, and gives the keynote to his course of action during the 
remainder of his public life. 

Mr. Hamlin became a business senator, and from choice. Personal 
ambition dictated another course. He might have enhanced his 
reputation by devoting himself to one or more subjects on which to 
make himself a special authority such as slavery, the tariff, or the 
financial question. Many a senator or representative has achieved 
national prominence by making a specialty of one subject, although 
taking a low rank as a practical legislator. But Mr. Hamlin was in 
different about his fame. It may be repeated that he rarely wrote 
out a speech, and seldom was known to revise one. He disliked to 
talk about himself. In his later days his aversion for the newspaper 
interviewer was notorious. The truth is Mr. Hamlin s governing idea 
of life was that "one should do the duty that lies nearest." He was 
also a man of action rather than words, and when this great era of 
development began, he plunged into the business of the Senate, and 
accomplished results that are a story by themselves and a monument 
to his attention to his duties. This record in detail would prove dry 
reading, but it represents work that had to be done, and required close 
attention and an intimate knowledge of government and public affairs. 
Several subjects in connection with this will present themselves else 

Mr. Hamlin s election to the chairmanship of the Committee on 


Commerce was undoubtedly a circumstance that contributed in a 
large measure to his development into a business senator. He was 
not quite thirty-nine when he entered the Senate, and during his sec 
ond year he was elected chairman of this committee. His habits of 
life, characteristics, and public course had not yet been fully matured, 
and his new duties tended to awaken and strengthen his natural pre 
ference for action. The scope of the work devolving upon the Com 
mittee on Commerce embraced a vast field, and it was a more impor 
tant arm of business for the government than now. The nature of 
its work was more largely creative than now; the rapid growth of the 
country constantly created new conditions that the committee had to 
meet. In brief, this committee was required to give its attention to 
shipping interests, the customs and revenue marine services, river and 
harbor improvements, the life-saving department, and coast survey. 
The chairmanship involved the personal supervision of an immense 
amount of detail. The incumbent was also chosen with regard to 
his ability and experience as a political manager, because there was 
much patronage connected with the post. 

In a year or two after Mr. Hamlin had been chairman of the Com 
mittee on Commerce, a marked change took place in him ; he became 
not only a business senator, but also a silent senator. This at first 
puzzled his friends, who had expected him to play a conspicuous part 
in the Senate s debates and discussions. In the House and state 
legislature he had been regarded as one of the most promising and 
forcible debaters and speakers in the Democratic party. He was 
often selected by his party managers in the House in preference to 
older and more experienced men to champion measures. His asso 
ciates urged him to study the graces of oratory, for they thought that 
he could develop oratorical ability of a high order. It is not known 
whether Mr. Hamlin ever went to the trouble of studying a model. 
It is doubtful if he did. He was original, and disposed to be sparing 
of his words. It was the talkative nature of the legislature and 
House and the partisanship of his youth that impelled him to speak 
in those bodies rather than a desire to hear himself talk. When he 
became a member of the Senate, he found its dignified tone and 
deliberate method of procedure more to his liking. As his predi 
lection for work was encouraged by circumstances, he was soon 
more active in the committee room than in the forum. 

The congressional habit of talk was another factor of this change 
in Mr. Hamlin. The long speech was still in vogue among the sen 
ators, and it was no uncommon thing for one to take the larger part 
of two daily sessions to deliver a speech. When a senator s argu 
ments, ideas, and position were pretty well known, reiteration some 
what palled on his colleagues. But some of the senators of this period 


would have flowed on forever like Tennyson s brook if the transaction 
of public business had not held them in check. A reaction was set 
ting in against the long-winded, ornate style of speech-making which 
had long prevailed. The death of Calhoun, Webster s entrance into 
the Cabinet, and the decline of Clay left few men in the Senate with 
the ability that justified the taking of a day of the Senate s time for the 
delivery of a speech. Mr. Hamlin grew impatient ; his private letters 
and conversation resounded with an emphatic protest. "Congress 
talks too much " was the burden of his complaint, and he saw no rea 
son to change his mind in the days of his retirement. Many amusing 
stories were related how Mr. Hamlin would retire from the Senate in 
great displeasure when a verbose senator took the floor to ramble for 
a couple of hours on his favorite theme, "His Majesty Myself," and 
check the transaction of public business. 1 

But while Senator Hamlin virtually withdrew from the political dis 
cussions in the Senate, he nevertheless participated in the debates on 
business affairs, and occasionally made set speeches when he thought 
that he ought to speak. He would sometimes rise to cut the knot of 
debate upon a question of order, for he was recognized as an author 
ity on parliamentary procedure. There was a noticeable change in 
his style of speaking. His remarks on business matters were usually 
very brief, concise, exact, without a superfluous word ; his speeches 
were modeled on the same plan, and presented facts marshaled in 
perfect order with little or no attempt to rise into flights of eloquence. 
His remarks in connection with the government reports, as they 
appear in the " Congressional Record," cover a wide range of topics ; 
he dealt with these subjects as only a man could who was entitled to 
speak with authority and exact knowledge. Without going into detail 
now, it may be said that Professor Alexander D. Bache and Professor 
Joseph Henry regarded Mr. Hamlin as their most consistent and intel 
ligent supporter in the Senate when they were engaged in developing 
the coast survey and lighthouse departments. 

This general outline of Mr. Hamlin s work in the Senate and its 
effect on him would not be complete without the explanation of a 
seeming inconsistency in the narrative. While Mr. Hamlin was known 

1 Senator Hamlin once said that he agreed with the following sentiments which 
Bismarck expressed to his secretary, Dr. Busch, in 1871 : " The gift of oratory has 
ruined much in parliamentary life. Time is wasted because everyone who feels 
ability in that line must have his word, even if he has no new point to bring for 
ward. Speaking is too much in the air, and too little to the point. Everything is 
already settled in committees; a man speaks, therefore, at length only for the 
public, to whom he wishes to show off as much as possible, and still more for the 
newspapers, who are to praise him. Oratory will, one day, come to be looked 
upon as a generally harmful quality, and a man will be punished who permits 
himself to be guilty of a long speech ! " 


to the end of his career at Washington as a silent senator, he yet be 
came one of the most widely known campaign orators of his day. 
There is no contradiction or inconsistency. Mr. Hamlin early imbibed 
the idea that the Senate was a place for the transaction of public busi 
ness. He also believed that a senator should give an account of him 
self to his constituents. Then, again, he was a born politician, and 
loved the excitement of a campaign. This overbore his natural mod 
esty, which inclined him to remain in retirement, and for years he 
regularly took the stump in the service of his party when it needed 
him. The speeches that Mr. Hamlin made on the stump were simple 
in style, and always aimed at the level of popular understanding. He 
instinctively gauged that level, and that was one thing which gave 
him his hold on the masses of the people. He gave the rank and 
file of his party what they could carry, assimilate, and repeat, and no 
more. His ideas on this point are well expressed in Lincoln s advice 
to his partner, William H. Herndon : " Don t shoot too high ; aim 
lower, and the common people will understand you. They are the 
ones you want to reach at least the ones you ought to reach. The 
educated and refined people will understand you anyway. If you aim 
too high, your ideas will go over the heads of the masses, and only hit 
those who need no hitting." 

It is clear that Mr. Hamlin was justified in pursuing this course. 
In Maine he always had the masses of the people with him, though 
his opponents might have the party machinery. He knew that it was 
one thing to deliver a finished speech, and that it was quite another 
to make one which would influence the masses. The necessity of 
keeping the slavery question, with its involved and rapidly changing 
phases, clear to the common people was a circumstance in itself that 
rendered it advisable for Mr. Hamlin, during his first years in the 
Senate, to speak to the twelfth man in the public jury. The result 
was that the voters of Maine always understood him, and kept him at 
Washington for over thirty years, without his expending one cent for 
other than legitimate purposes. 

It is interesting now to note the kind of men with whom Mr. Ham- 
lim was most intimately associated in the Senate during this period 
of work. They were preeminently workers. Prominent among them 
were Thomas H. Benton, Sam Houston, John Davis, Jefferson Davis, 
John Bell, Willie P. Mangum, George E. Badger, John McPherson 
Berrien, Solon Borland," of Arkansas, General Henry Dodge, of Wis 
consin, and Alpheus Felch, of Michigan. The one with whom Senator 
Hamlin at this time sustained the closest personal and party rela 
tions was Benton, who was the father of the Senate and the most 
revered Jackson Democrat of the times. His noble and useful career 
in the Senate was now drawing to a close ; yet, at no time in his long 


and distinguished life had Benton more clearly revealed his true 
qualities as a pure patriot and wise statesman. A Southern man by 
birth, a slaveholder, too, he combated the Calhoun party with all his 
great power and force. The slave party succeeded in preventing his 
reelection to the Senate in 1850, after thirty years service in that 
body ; but that was a Pyrrhic victory, and enhanced Benton s fame. 

The measure of Benton s statesmanship is to be determined by the 
immense influence he exerted in the formative period of congres 
sional legislation, by his honorable, wise, and aggressive leadership, 
his personal qualities of integrity, honor, moral courage, ample know 
ledge, and force. Thus, while Benton s name is not attached to 
specific acts of legislation as author, yet he was one of the great 
powers of his day. He was identified with many measures of vast 
importance, and through his management was entitled to a large share 
of credit for their success. He was Jackson s right-hand man in his 
fight against the United States bank ; he was probably more instru 
mental than any other man in inducing the government to adopt and 
maintain the double currency coin standard ; he promoted the home 
stead movement, which was to bestow government land on those who 
settled on it. He was at that time deeply interested in the develop 
ment of the country s material resources, and in certain plans to pro 
mote its business welfare. One was the building of a Pacific railroad, 
and this he had taken up again about the time Mr. Hamlin entered 
the Senate. 

An amusing story is told of the first meeting between Senator 
Hamlin and Colonel Benton. The day the former took the oath of 
senator, he sat down in a seat near Benton. Presently Mr. Hamlin 
saw "Old Bullion," as Benton was called, looking at him with a smile. 
Then, without any preliminary remark or introduction, Benton put 
out his hand to the new senator from Maine, and said in a jocose, 
rhythmical way: "Honorable Hannibal Hamlin, of Hampden, Maine. 
Why, sir, your name ought to make you President some day." Ben- 
ton, it appears, had watched Mr. Hamlin s course in the House, and 
had picked him out as a rising man. After Mr. Hamlin entered the 
Senate, Benton displayed almost a paternal interest in his young as 
sociate. He selected Mr. Hamlin for the position of chairman of the 
Committee on Commerce, urged him to take a more prominent part 
in the inner councils of his party, and constantly invited him to his 
house. Although Benton had pompous ways, yet they were pure 
mannerisms. Mr. Hamlin said that Benton was one of the kindest- 
hearted men he ever knew, and a most enjoyable and sociable enter 
tainer. He ranked Benton, too, as one of the greatest and best men 
he knew among the leading statesmen of the country. 

Mr. Hamlin s relations with Jefferson Davis throw some interesting 


light on the peculiar views Southern senators of a certain type held 
with regard to the relations between the government and the individual 
States. These men lived in communities where they saw compara 
tively little of business life, and, imbibing Calhoun s doctrines, they 
evolved ideas of their own. They not only sincerely believed that 
each State in the Union was a sovereign nation, but they were always 
on the alert to see that the government took no step which would 
be in their eyes an infringement on state rights. They evidently 
thought the fathers of the government attached no importance to the 
name, "The United States," which they gave to this nation. Some 
times these Southern statesmen were carried far beyond the bounds 
of common sense when they got astride of their hobby. One was 
Clement C. Clay, Jr., of Alabama, who was known as Copperhead Clay, 
after the snake by that name, on account of his venomous attacks on 
those whom he disliked. One of Clay s notions was that the govern 
ment had no right to appropriate money to improve rivers and har 
bors. Once he got appointed to the Committee on Commerce, where 
he made no end of trouble. It became necessary on a certain occa 
sion for the committee to recommend the appropriation of $50,000 to 
render navigation safe in a certain Southern harbor. Clay insisted 
that the State where the harbor existed should make the improve 
ments, and all the precedents in the history of the government could 
not drive the idea out of his head. All the other members of the 
committee favored the appropriation, and after a stormy session Mr. 
Clay departed from the meeting in a state of high dudgeon, threat 
ening to invoke the aid of his quixotic Southern brethren to defeat 
the bill. 

At this juncture Senator Hamlin appealed to Jefferson Davis, who, 
although impregnated with the Calhoun idea, still believed that the 
government had a right to pass measures which were for the good of 
all the States. He listened to Mr. Hamlin s recital of facts, and 
when he saw that a refusal to improve the harbor in question might 
endanger life and property, he courteously interrupted Mr. Hamlin 
by saying : " No argument is necessary, Mr. Hamlin ; the interests 
of humanity alone dictate that your appropriation bill should be 
passed, and I will promise you my support." Mr. Davis was as good 
as his word. He went among his Southern brethren, who were in a 
state of ferment over the matter, and labored with them to such good 
effect that Mr. Clay was able to muster just seven votes against Mr. 
Hamlin s bill. 

On other occasions, Mr. Hamlin received cordial support from Mr. 
Davis, and they soon established very pleasant personal relations, 
which were not terminated until ten years later. The military educa 
tion Mr. Davis had received at West Point, and his experience as an 


engineer, had taught him the need of placing the simple demands of 
civilization above the tenets of political creeds. But by nature he was 
more practical, sensible, and courteous than the other members of the 
extreme and aggressive school of Southern statesmen with whom he 
was associated. He had a high sense of personal honor and of na 
tional obligations. One incident will illustrate. At the outbreak of 
the Mexican war, the government advertised through the War Depart 
ment for sappers and miners. As an inducement to enlist, it offered 
to give all who joined the sappers and miners corps an education as 
mining engineers. Some seventy young men enlisted. Some were 
from Maine. After the war the government not only failed to keep 
its promise, but also refused these men a discharge from the army. 
The reason is not known, but there was probably a red-tape complica 
tion at the bottom of the matter. The soldiers from Maine came to 
Mr. Hamlin in their trouble, and he offered a bill discharging them 
from the army. This was referred to the Military Committee, of 
which Jefferson Davis was chairman. It appears that he did not hear 
Mr. Hamlin s argument, and he caused the committee to report against 
the bill, on the ground that the Senate could not interfere with the 
executive management of the army. The Senate accepted the com 
mittee s report and rejected Mr. Hamlin s bill. But when Mr. Hamlin 
saw that Mr. Davis had not grasped the principle involved, he called 
Davis aside, and reviewing the case, said : 

" Davis, you do not see the point. It is this : the government gave 
its word to these young men that if they would enlist, it would educate 
them as mining engineers. Now it has not only broken its pledges, 
but it is even trying to coerce these men into remaining in the army. 
I know you do not believe that the government should be allowed to 
break its pledges." 

Mr. Hamlin s explanation cleared up the misapprehensions Mr. 
Davis had been laboring under, and he exclaimed : " You are right, 
Hamlin. I had misunderstood the case. The evidence you present 
exhibits the case in another light. I agree with you ; the government 
must keep its promises, and I pledge you I will do what I can to induce 
the Senate to reverse its action." In a few days, largely through Mr. 
Davis s efforts, Congress released the soldiers, and the Maine men, to 
show their appreciation of Mr. Hamlin s labors in their behalf, pre 
sented him with a gold-headed cane made from the timber of " Old 

Mr. Hamlin was pleasantly associated on the Committee on Com 
merce with John Davis, of Massachusetts ; General Dodge, of Wiscon 
sin ; John Bell, of Tennessee ; and Pierre Soule, of Louisiana. Perhaps 
during his entire term of service in Congress, he liked no senator 
better than " Honest " John Davis. The senator from Massachusetts 


was noted for his upright character, sound, practical mind, and gra 
cious, genial personality. He was Mr. Hamlin s most active co- 
operator during the first four years the latter was chairman of the 
Committee on Commerce. Together they devised and framed several 
important and salutary measures of legislation that are still in force. 
One was the well known act " to provide for the better security of 
the lives of passengers on board vessels propelled in whole or in part 
by steam." 

The cause and enactment of this measure may be briefly traced, to 
give a concrete illustration of the nature of Mr. Hamlin s most impor 
tant work at this time. Navigation on the waters of the United 
States had not been properly regulated, since the advent of the steam 
boat up to Mr. Hamlin s appointment as the head of the Committee 
on Commerce. An inadequate act was passed in 1838. With the 
opening up of the great West, followed by the discovery of gold in 
California, a feverish spirit prevailed in the West and Southwest. 
Travel was accomplished under great pressure ; there was intense 
rivalry among the steamboat lines on the Mississippi, the Great Lakes, 
and the California route. Racing was frequent ; the management was 
characterized by frightful recklessness. There was a long era of apall- 
ing accidents. Hundreds of steamboats were sunk on snags, or blown 
up, or burned with a terrible loss of life and property, where proper 
navigation laws would have averted these calamities. The Secretary 
of the Treasury transmitted to the Senate a report on June 30, 1851, 
which is a horrible record of casualties. Up to 1849, fr m the com 
mencement of navigation by steam in the United States, there were 
1865 steamers built in the Mississippi Valley and on the Gulf. Of that 
number 736 were destroyed, 419 by snags, 104 by fire, 82 by boiler 
explosions, and the rest by bursting of pipes, collapsing of flues, and 
collision. The selfishness of owners, reckless and incompetent man 
agement, lack of equipment, and inadequate navigation laws were the 
chief causes. In 1851 the steamer C. P. Griffith took fire on Lake 
Erie, and over two hundred people were lost, although the boat was 
only a short distance from shore. She had no lifeboats ! The record 
presented is chiefly of local accidents, but enough has been given to 
show the conditions of travel on water in this period. 

When Mr. Hamlin became chairman of the Committee on Com 
merce, steamboat travel was one of the first subjects to which he gave 
his attention. He set the machinery in motion as soon as possible to 
effect a radical and lasting reform. Mr. Davis cooperated with him. 
Together they personally consulted hundreds of navigators, steamship 
owners, scientists, and travelers, to seek the proper remedy. Together 
they framed a bill, but Senator Davis had the honor of taking charge of 
it, and of managing the measure on the floor of the Senate. He made 


the principal speech in favor of the bill, and Mr. Hamlin supported 
him. This bill struck the evils of steamship management their death 
blow. It compelled all owners of public steamboats to license their 
crafts ; established a board of supervising inspectors to examine appli 
cants for the positions of pilot and engineer ; appointed inspectors to 
examine hulls and boilers ; required all passenger steamers to be pro 
vided with metallic lifeboats, force pumps, fire-buckets, axes ; forbade 
the carrying of inflammable material as cargo without certain precau 
tions ; prescribed clear and inflexible rules for navigation, to avoid col 
lisions ; exacted the display of the inspector s certificate of examination 
in a conspicuous place, and after many other provisions fixed heavy 
penalties for disregarding the statute. 

This was one of the most advanced reforms that the government 
effected before the civil war in the interests of civilization. The 
importance of the measure, the wide field of inquiry it covered, the 
selfishness of shipowners, the opposition of certain senators, and the 
usual delay between the Senate and the House in coming to an agree 
ment, were obstacles to a speedy action by Congress. Mr. Hamlin 
and Mr. Davis worked on their bill the larger part of two years before 
they could act. Mr. Davis presented the bill on July 7, 1852. It was 
passed the following month with over one hundred amendments by 
the House, which Mr. Davis advised the Senate to accept, chiefly to 
avoid further delay. Stephen R. Mallory, of Florida, who was after 
wards secretary of the Confederate navy, was one of the few senators 
who opposed the bill. The reason he gave was that the progress in 
the invention of machinery would in time obviate the dangers of navi 
gation in the United States. When the bill was enacted a salutary 
effect was soon felt. In 1854 Mr. Hamlin had the act strength 
ened by further amendments. The certificate of inspection, that the 
traveler now finds in every public passenger steamboat in this coun 
try, is living testimony to the work Mr. Hamlin and John Davis 
accomplished many years ago to save life and property, and is a 
reminder of the era of terrible accidents and criminal negligence long 
happily past. 

Mr. Hamlin was personally instrumental in placing on the statute 
books a reformatory act of great importance limiting the liabilities 
of shipowners. The old law bore heavily and unjustly in several 
respects on shipowners, and they made loud complaints to Congress. 
An illustration may be taken from Mr. Hamlin s speech, February 26, 
1851. If a ship lying at a pier caught fire and communicated the 
flames to a neighboring ship, the owner of the second was held re 
sponsible for the cargo on his vessel, if it was consumed. Mr. Ham 
lin s bill was framed on the English law, and held an owner harmless 
in such a contingency, provided, of course, the loss did not happen 


through any fault or neglect on his part. Another section directed 
that all gold dust, silver bullion, jewelry, and other articles of value, 
when laden on a vessel, should be accompanied by a description in 
writing to be given to the master. The owner was thus apprised of 
the risks he assumed. A third section provided that the owner of 
a vessel should be liable only to the full extent of his ownership in 
the vessel. The fourth provided a remedy for those who might sus 
tain a loss where the value of a vessel and her freight for the voyage 
should not be sufficient to pay the whole amount of the loss. A fifth 
prescribed that where A chartered his vessel to B, he should not 
be held responsible for B s debts. Another fixed a penalty of $1000 
for the loading of inflammable materials, specified without informing 
the master of the vessel in writing. This is only an outline of the 
bill ; the particulars need not be detailed. It is only necessary to say 
that it placed American shipping on a footing with English shipping. 
The merchants of New York city tendered Senator Hamlin a public 
banquet in recognition of his labors in behalf of American shipping 
interests, but he declined it. 

An important act of legislation which Mr. Hamlin conceived, and 
the passage of which he secured, was one providing for the recording 
of the conveyances of vessels. It is an interesting fact that prior to 
the enactment of this law there was no national uniform system of 
recording the titles of vessels ; it was subject to local laws. Much 
confusion of titles arose ; worse than that, some sharpers took advan 
tage of the condition of affairs to perpetrate outrageous swindles. 
There were many cases on record where a man sold a ship or vessel 
in one State, took the craft to another, and sold it again. Mr. Ham- 
lin s long experience in maritime affairs, both as the chairman of the 
Committee on Commerce and as shipowner, were the means of his 
ascertaining the necessity of a reform. He drafted the bill without 
suggestion from any one, and procured its passage without opposition. 
It is recorded among the acts of Congress in the United States Stat 
utes at Large, vol. ix. p. 440. It caused comparatively slight litiga 
tion, and was a great benefit to marine interests. It became a law 
on July 29, 1 8 so. 1 

1 William Shaw Lindsay, elected member of Parliament from Tynemouth in 
1854, one of the largest shipowners in England, and a well-known writer on mari 
time subjects, was commissioned by the British government in 1856 to visit the 
United States in the interest of better maritime laws. He met Mr. Hamlin at 
Hampden, and in speeches before the Philadelphia Board of Trade, in 1856, 
asserted that he had met no man on either side of the Atlantic who understood 
the commercial relations between Great Britain and the United States, and the 
reformatory measures needed, as well as Governor Hamlin did. In 1860 Mr. 
Lindsay revisited the United States when Mr. Hamlin was candidate for Vice- 
President, and repeated his opinion in another speech. 


Other bills, measures, and incidents with which Senator Hamlin 
was identified during this period as chairman of the Committee on 
Commerce may be briefly grouped. He made several short speeches 
in favor of improving certain rivers and harbors. He offered an 
amendment to the pension laws, which was adopted. He was in 
strumental in having the revenue laws codified. Congress passed a 
resolution which he introduced appropriating $10,000 for that pur 
pose. He had charge of the bills making appropriations for the con 
struction of numerous custom-houses, at Cincinnati, Chicago, St. 
Louis, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Mobile, Wheeling, Bangor, Belfast, 
Bath, Portsmouth, Galveston, Georgetown, Milwaukee, Norfolk, and 
many other places. He was also a member of the Committee on 
Printing, and these duties increased the details of his work, a record 
of which it would hardly be worth while to present, though it was 
laborious and important. 

There are several incidents to be recorded now of a larger and 
more general interest. Congress was still engaged with the problem 
of cheap postage when Mr. Hamlin entered the Senate. His interest 
was still strong in this subject. He made a few short, practical 
speeches on this needed reform, favoring a large reduction of rates. 
It is noticeable that he reiterated his opposition to the franking privi 
lege in some remarks on January 19, 1849. His stated reason was 
that he believed that the Post-office Department should derive its 
support from its income, and that none should enjoy the benefit of 
the mail service without contributing to its maintenance. To the 
end of his life Mr. Hamlin opposed franking. A story is told that 
illustrates the scrupulous use he made of the franking privilege. Some 
senators had a rather loose idea of this right, and thought it proper 
for them to frank a friend s letter. They looked on the franking 
privilege as a sort of free pass which they might use for the benefit 
of their personal friends. One day a wealthy man, who believed in 
getting all that he could without payipg for it, had a little business 
with Senator Hamlin. After this was settled, the man handed Mr. 
Hamlin a couple of letters, saying, - 

" Senator, I want you to do me a little favor. Just put your name 
on these letters, will you ? " 

Mr. Hamlin pulled out his pocket book, and taking out some money, 

"I will give you the money, sir." 

" Sir," replied the astonished man, " do you mean to insult me ? " 

"No, sir," said Senator Hamlin; "you ask me to insult the gov 
ernment by abusing a privilege which it extends to me as a senator." 

One of the most practical and beneficial acts of legislation Mr. 


Hamlin was identified with was the building of the Pacific Railroad. 
While he was not one of the conspicuous leaders in this enterprise, 
he was one of the strongest friends the project had in Congress, and 
accomplished a great deal of work to secure the necessary legisla 
tion. It will be recalled that in his first Oregon speech in the House, 
Mr. Hamlin predicted the construction of a transcontinental railway. 
In 1849 Senator Benton instituted the legislation to build the road. 
In 1853 Congress authorized surveys of the proposed routes. Sen 
ator Hamlin supported this legislation in speeches, newspaper arti 
cles, and by his vote. He urged that the road would bind the Union 
closer together, open up travel, develop the country, increase trade, 
and would also be a great safeguard to the nation as a means of 
military defense. The strict constructionists and advocates of the 
extreme doctrine of state rights opposed the granting a government 
subsidy to help build the Pacific Railroad. Mr. Hamlin believed that 
the government had the necessary power. The Constitution gave 
Congress the right to regulate commerce between the States. But 
the broad, general reasons he had were that the United States was 
a nation, and the welfare of the Union could be promoted by the con 
struction of a transcontinental railroad ; that as the enterprise was 
beyond the power of individuals to carry out, the government ought 
to act. The breaking out of the civil war opened the eyes of many 
conservative men who had not seen the necessity for calling on the 
government to lend its aid to this plan to unite the East and the 

Another circumstance occurred at this time which shows the range 
of Mr. Hamlin s ideas in regard to national, commercial, and business 
interests. He reported a bill from the Committee on Commerce 
calling for certain appropriations. One section authorized the gov 
ernment to appropriate $5000 to send a commission to Paraguay 
to study the conditions of trade there in order to ascertain how the 
United States might obtain a market in that country. It should be 
explained that there were circumstances at this particular time that 
rendered it advisable for the government to operate first in Paraguay ; 
Mr. Hamlin had in mind the desirability of opening up trade in South 
America, and selected Paraguay as the starting-point. But Mr. Ham 
lin s resolutions met with only good-natured ridicule. One senator 
declared that he had never heard of such a preposterous suggestion. 
Mr. Hamlin turned the tables on him by reading an extract from 
the last report of the Secretary of the Treasury favoring the exten 
sion of our trade with South America, and showing that England 
was rapidly getting control of the South American markets. But the 
Senate thought Mr. Hamlin s resolution chimerical, and, after the ex 
penditure of considerable humor, rejected it. Nearly forty years later, 


when James G. Blaine proposed his plan of reciprocity, there was a 
large party that laughed at it at his expense. Yet England controls 
South American trade to-day, and possibly the British merchants 
have their own idea of American humor. 

Frequent complaints were heard from time to time that American 
seamen who had been wrecked on the coast of Japan had been im 
prisoned and barbarously treated by the natives. Mr. Hamlin inves 
tigated these charges. At the same time his attention was drawn 
to the possibilities of trade which the United States might build up 
with Oriental nations. On February 21, 1850, he introduced a reso 
lution calling on the Secretary of State for whatever information he 
might possess covering these points, and also requesting him to report 
on the advisability of appointing a commissioner or diplomatic agent 
to open up amicable relations and negotiate commercial treaties with 
these nations. These resolutions were adopted by the Senate on 
March 21, 1850. Negotiations were begun with Japan, and in 1854 
Commodore M. C. Perry signed an amicable treaty with the Japanese 
government. The incident created great interest. These are only 
the dry facts. 

In the summer of 1852 there was again trouble between American 
and Canadian fishermen along the coast of the British provinces. 
This time there was a war scare. The English government sent a 
fleet of a dozen or more men-of-war to the scene of contention. Com 
modore M. C. Perry was dispatched to the same place, and once more 
the question of our rights in the North American fisheries was under 
discussion. Senator Hamlin was peculiarly interested in this ques 
tion, and he made, on August 3 and 5, 1852, the most extensive and 
comprehensive speech he had delivered after he became a working 
senator. It is of historical value since it deals minutely with a sub 
ject that has caused so much friction. While it need not be reviewed, 
the nature of Mr. Hamlin s argument may be indicated. He demon 
strated that Great Britain had acknowledged by treaty and acts of 
acquiescence that American fishermen had the right to take fish 
within the three-mile limit along the coast of the British provinces. 
He urged the government to protect the fishermen in their rights, 
and showed how the fisheries had developed the American navy. 
His citation of facts left no room for doubt as to our rights, and his 
speech was accepted by the Senate as authoritative. Those who 
care to investigate the subject further will find this speech of histor 
ical authority, and also a striking example of Mr. Hamlin s peculiar 
powers of statement. He convinced the Senate, and at the same 
time provided the fishermen themselves with arguments that they 
could use with understanding. Pierre Soule, one of the most eloquent 
members of the Senate, pronounced this " a remarkable speech." 


Nothing serious came from the dispute over the fisheries. Webster, 
who was still secretary of state, and dying, spent some of his last 
hours in smoothing over the trouble with Mr. Crampton, the British 
minister at Washington. The reciprocity treaty of 1854 was the out 
come of this. 

But this period of quietude was now drawing to a close ; the slavery 
issue was beginning to loom up again. The adoption of the compro 
mise measures had the effect of increasing the small anti-slavery party 
in the Senate by two important additions, Charles Sumner, of Mas 
sachusetts, and Benjamin F. Wade, of Ohio. There could hardly be 
a greater contrast between two leaders. Sumner was the scholar in 
politics, and excelled as an orator. He represented the most enlight 
ened State in the Union, and his supporters encouraged him to give 
all his time to the slavery issue. This was a great advantage to Mr. 
Sumner. He was practically excused from the routine duties of a 
senator, and was also relieved from the worry of managing his own 
campaigns in Massachusetts. He was the Bay State s selected cham 
pion in the anti-slavery fight. Wade, who was also a Massachusetts 
man by birth, was the antithesis of Sumner. He was self-made, raised 
up from the ranks, a bluff, emphatic, aggressively honest man of great 
but undisciplined powers. It is related that he once began a speech 
by saying : " Mr. President, them resolutions." But the tremendous 
blows which he dealt in debate made him feared by his better edu 
cated opponents. He was a "rough jewel." Mr. Hamlin enjoyed 
pleasant personal relations with Sumner at this time, but of Wade it 
may be said that few men were ever closer to Mr. Hamlin s heart than 
"bluff " Ben Wade, of Ohio, one of the bravest of men. 

The Fugitive Slave Law was now beginning to make serious trouble, 
and the Senate had occasional reminders of the indignation the mea 
sure provoked at the North. Senator Hamlin early came to the con 
clusion that this law would eventually work out its own destruction. 
He realized as Grant did when the latter said, "The way to abolish a 
bad law is to enforce it." Yet Mr. Hamlin strongly favored action. 
With the Senate in the hands of the pro-slavery party, it was hope 
less now to agitate a complete repeal. President Fillmore, Edward 
Everett, secretary of state, Rufus Choate, General Cass, Stephen 
A. Douglas, and scores of other prominent Northern statesmen were 
opposed to further agitation. But Mr. Hamlin hoped that Northern 
sentiment would eventually crystallize against this law, and compel 
its statesmen to change their course. In the mean time he thought 
the most practical step to be taken was to favor trial by jury. No 
more arbitrary or despotic law was ever placed on the statute books 
of a republic than the Fugitive Slave Law. It vested complete power 
in a United States commissioner to decide the liberty of a colored 


person. There was no appeal from his decision. He even received 
twice the fee for consigning a colored man to slavery than for dis 
missing his case. No one knows how many freed men and women 
were sworn into slavery by perjurers and kidnappers. This was 
why Mr. Hamlin favored trial by jury as* the first act of remedial 

During the first few years Sumner was in the Senate, prior to the 
repeal of the Missouri Compromise, he was rather quiet, while familiar 
izing himself with his position. But he made several moves at this 
time which were precursors of his notable course in subsequent years. 
One of the first things Sumner did of importance after entering the 
Senate was to offer, on May 26, 1852, a petition from the Society of 
Friends of New England praying for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave 
Law. The pro-slavery men were more tolerant and courteous than 
their predecessors were in the days of the gag-law. Mr. Mangum and 
Mr. Badger, for example, expressed the desire that the petition should 
be received, although announcing their intention of voting to table it. 
The petition was received by a unanimous vote, but it was promptly 
tabled by a vote of 40 to IO. 1 The ten who voted to take up the 
petition were Messrs. Hamlin, Sumner, Borland, Chase, Wade, Hale, 
Seward, Davis, of Massachusetts, and Walker and Dodge, of Wiscon 
sin. But this vote did not entirely represent the anti-slavery senti 
ment in the Senate. Among the forty who opposed the petition were 
Hamilton Fish, of New York, whose public career is without a blot ; 
Alpheus Felch, a pure and able senator from Michigan, who was a 
decided opponent of slavery, and William Upham, an anti-slavery man 
from Vermont. The difference between these men and their anti- 
slavery colleagues was that between conservatism and radicalism, or, 
fairer still, a matter of judgment. They were averse to reopening 
the agitation. They did not think the time had come for that, and 
that is the whole story. 

On July 27, 1852, Sumner introduced a bill calling on the Judi 
ciary Committee to consider the expediency of reporting a bill to 
repeal the Fugitive Slave Law. This was rejected the next day, after 
a short debate, by a vote of 32 to io. 2 Mr. Hamlin was one of the 
ten who supported Sumner s bill. But this was only fencing. The 
narrative now turns back to a marked epoch in the history of Maine, 
the senatorial election of 1850. Many details have been omitted 
from this record of Mr. Hamlin s work, in order that the story of 
events might not be too long delayed. But it is well to close this 
chapter by adding the facts, that during the seven years Mr. Hamlin 
was chairman of the Committee on Commerce, he personally exam- 

1 Congressional Globe, May 26, 1852, p. 1475. 

2 Ibid., July 28, p. 1953. 


ined all bills and measures brought before it, answered all important 
communications to him in his own writing, while he was in the Senate, 
and finally made no distinction between his constituents on account 
of politics in discharging his duties as senator. This was his concep 
tion of his duties as a business senator, although he was always a 
strong partisan. 



THE fierce quarrel over the omnibus bill in Congress widened the 
split in both parties on the slavery issue ; at the same time, it nerved 
Mr. Hamlin s pro-slavery opponents in Maine to make a supreme 
effort to prevent his reelection to the Senate in the summer of 1850. 
This was the severest struggle that Mr. Hamlin ever had with the 
slave party ; and there is no incident in his life which so clearly reveals 
the peculiarly perplexing and practical difficulties that beset him as 
an anti-slavery leader. Again Mr. Hamlin Jiad the people of his 
party with him, and the politicians against him. Two thirds of the 
party favored Mr. Hamlin s return to the Senate ; in fact, he was 
renominated in the legislative caucus by two thirds of the Demo 
cratic members ; but by the accidents of politics, the balance of 
power in this election was held for two months by a small number 
of pro-slavery men, who did their utmost to defeat Mr. Hamlin. 
They did, however, make several offers of compromise, and promised 
to elect Mr. Hamlin if he would consent to the rescinding of resolu 
tions he had caused the previous legislature to pass, instructing the 
Maine congressmen to oppose all measures extending slavery into 
free territory. This would have allowed Senator Hamlin to continue 
his opposition to slavery ; but it would have freed Senator Bradbury 
and two Hunker representatives, Thomas J. D. Fuller and Moses 
McDonald, from all restraint. Mr. Hamlin refused to listen to these 
terms ; he was contending for his principles and the honor of Maine. 
In the end, he was elected by the aid of a few Free-Soilers, who came 
to his help in a dramatic way at a critical moment. This was one of 
the hardest blows the pro-slavery machine in Maine received before 
it was wiped out of existence by the civil war. 

Discouraging conditions existed at the outset. The pro-slavery 
machine was at the height of its power, and in consequence of the 
action of its leaders, the Democratic party was steadily losing ground 
in Maine. This machine had a leader in the governor s chair, 
Mr. Dana ; two men in Congress, Fuller and McDonald ; a quasi 
friend in Senator Bradbury ; half a dozen able men in the state Sen 
ate ; twenty-five in the House. It had adherents and henchmen by 
the score in minor state offices who were appointed by Governor 


^p>_. ^^^***"*^!+i* 



Dana. Among its prominent leaders were Nathan Clifford, who 
had just retired from President Polk s Cabinet, and was anxiously 
seeking a return to official life ; George F. Shepley, who was after 
wards judge of the United States Circuit Court, and was now recog 
nized as one of the most brilliant lawyers in New England ; Bion 
Bradbury, who was the suavest and craftiest wire-puller the Demo 
cratic party of Maine ever produced ; Wyman B. S. Moor, who had 
been attorney-general of Maine four times ; Shepard Cary, who had 
been in Congress and was now in the state Senate ; Virgil D. Parris, 
another former congressman; Benjamin Wiggin, who was in the 
governor s council ; George W. Stanley, a leading banker of the 
State, a power in Kennebec County ; and many others who were well 
known in their day. They comprised a group of strong and resource 
ful politicians. 

Mr. Hamlin and his friends had two things to do to secure his 
reelection : one was to wrest the control of the party machine away 
from the pro-slavery wing, and the other was to carry the State for 
the Democracy. It is interesting to observe the kind of men who 
were Mr. Hamlin s most active followers in this campaign. There 
were few office-seekers among them, and not many practiced politi 
cians. They did not have a tithe of the titles the pro-slavery men 
enjoyed. Outside of Mr. Hamlin s lieutenants, they were mostly 
plain men from the people. The one on whom Mr. Hamlin depended 
most in this campaign was William P. Haines, of Saco, who at this 
time was one of the leading business men of Maine, and was largely 
instrumental in developing the textile manufacturing interests of his 
part of the State. He was a strong, sagacious, upright, modest man, 
a gentleman, and a scholar. Mr. Hamlin wanted Mr. Haines for his 
colleague in the Senate ; but he preferred private life, though he 
gave his time ungrudgingly for his party s good. Ezra B. French, of 
Damariscotta, was another man whom Mr. Hamlin highly esteemed. 
He was Maine s secretary of state for four years, was one of the first 
Republicans Maine sent to Congress, and was appointed second audi 
tor of the United States Treasury by President Lincoln, at Mr. Ham 
lin s request. George P. Sewall, an able lawyer and wit, of Old Town, 
was the practical politician. Judge R. D. Rice, of Augusta, who 
served nearly twelve years on the Supreme Bench of Maine with honor 
to the State and credit to himself ; General Samuel F. Hersey, a 
leading lumberman of Maine ; William T. Johnson, editor of the 
" Augusta Age ;" Joseph Bartlett, editor of the " Bangor Jefferso- 
nian ; " Leander Valentine, of Westbrook ; Charles J. Talbot, 1 of Wil- 

1 One result of this contest was the cementing of a lifelong friendship between 
Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Talbot, who was a pure, unselfish, and large-minded man of 
uncommon ability and character. He was probably closer to Mr. Hamlin than 


ton ; George H. Shirley, of Portland ; John S. Chadwick, of Bangor ; 
General John J. Perry and George F. Emery, of Oxford County; 
Samuel Peters Brown, of Bluehill ; Isaac Dyer, of Baldwin ; John 
Gardner, of Patten, and others, were also loyal supporters of Mr. 
Hamlin. % 

The first move Mr. Hamlin made was to select his candidate for 
governor. A man was needed who would unite both wings of the 
party, and bring back five thousand Democrats who had voted the 
Free-Soil ticket the year before. He decided on Dr. John Hubbard, 
an eminent physician of Hallowell, who was a man he regarded of 
"popular possibilities." Dr. Hubbard was bluff, honest, kind-hearted, 
sturdy, of considerable political ability, and had an immense practice. 
He was nominated after a sharp fight in a convention of over six hun 
dred delegates, and elected over Elijah L. Hamlin, the Whig candi 
date, and the senator s brother, by a substantial majority. The 
Democrats also carried the legislature by a good vote, with Mr. Ham- 
lin s friends largely in the ascendency ; in fact, more than two thirds 
of the Democrats elected had been instructed by their constituents 
to vote for Mr. Hamlin s renomination. Thus, with the Hunkers 
beaten in the state convention and in the legislative caucus, and with 
the anti-slavery men in control of the state government and legisla 
ture, Mr. Hamlin s success seemed assured without further trouble. 

But it is the unexpected that happens in politics. Shortly after 
the personnel of the legislature had been determined, the Hunkers 
discovered a desperate chance of blocking Mr. Hamlin s election. 
They hoped that they could create a peculiar contingency out of 
certain conditions that existed in the state Senate. The Senate 
was entitled to thirty-one members, and it appeared before its or 
ganization that there would be twenty-one Democrats and ten Whigs. 
The Hunker opportunity arose from the fact that there had been 
several failures to elect, and the legislature was required to fill the 
vacancies. Now the Hunkers figured that if they could elect a pro- 
slavery man to fill one of these vacancies, they might be able to hold 
up the Senate. Of the Democrats in that body, eleven were known to 
be warm friends of Mr. Hamlin s ; five, who had been elected or were 
certain of getting their seats, were privately determined to bolt him ; 
four more were very doubtful, though they were inclined to stand by 
the party nominee. The eleven senators who were Mr. Hamlin s 
friends were a majority of the Democrats; but although these were 
sufficient to give him a regular party nomination in the Senate, they 
could not elect him, sixteen votes being necessary for a choice. The 

any other political associate in Maine. George H. Shirley, of the same pure 
type, is another brave anti-slavery fighter who was one of Mr. Hamlin s most 
devoted and affectionate friends for life. See Neal Dow s Reminiscences. 


plan the Hunkers concocted involved an unscrupulous violation of 
party pledges and usages. One feature included a secret bargain with 
the Whigs to elect George F. Shepley to fill one of the vacancies in 
the Senate ; another was a scheme to lead the doubtful senators off 
on a collateral issue. If this plotting succeeded, Mr. Hamlin s elec 
tion in the Senate would fail by one vote, unless the Free-Soil mem 
bers came to his aid, and steps were taken to meet this contingency. 

This conspiracy was set on foot soon after the fall election of 1849. 
As the legislature did not convene until the following May, the 
Hunkers had ample time to work every wire within their clutches. 
They were of course too adroit to give any hint of the purpose until 
they had carefully canvassed the situation, and sounded every pro- 
slavery Democrat of influence in Maine. But all this time the Hun 
kers were asserting in public their intention of contesting Mr. Hamlin s 
renomination in the regular party caucus. This was to divert atten 
tion from their underground scheming. There was a comic side to 
the Hunkers proceedings. In public they demanded Mr. Hamlin s 
defeat, on the allegation that he was an " unsafe party man " and an 
"unsound Democrat ; " yet in private they were preparing to violate 
the fundamental principle of the Democratic party, that the will of 
the majority should be respected. They shut their eyes to the incon 
sistency of their course; it was "anything to beat Hamlin." 

But Mr. Hamlin s friends were not to be deceived. They knew the 
temper and the disposition of their opponents, and they watched the 
Hunker camp day and night. There were mysterious conferences in 
the governor s rooms at Augusta, between Mr. Dana and the leaders 
of the pro-slavery wing. The Hunker rank and file were in a hubbub 
of excitement. The real Wild-Cat element began to show its claws. 
This crowd was composed of men who, happily for Maine, were few in 
number, although they were cunning and reckless. They would have 
been slaveholders had they lived in the South. They instinctively 
opposed an honest man ; they could not understand such a man. Dur 
ing the war of the rebellion, they were copperheads of the most viru 
lent type. They were perniciously alive in this contest, and their 
conduct reflected the actual hatred that the pro-slavery machine had 
for Senator Hamlin. They waged a campaign of slander ; they sought 
to arouse racial prejudice. A favorite trick was to coin catch phrases 
and pass them around the State. One was, " The niggers love Ham 
lin ; " another was, " Hamlin loves the niggers." One wretch whom 
his unsavory crowd managed to get into Congress for a short time 
capped the climax of slander against Mr. Hamlin, inventing a story 
which he told in a cunning way, so as to make it appear that Mr. 
Hamlin had negro blood in him. 

A campaign of falsehood against an honest man never failed to react 


on its authors. In this instance, the tactics of the Wild-Cats made the 
anti-slavery men all the more watchful. They cherished Mr. Hamlin s 
interests as they would their own. Their devotion to him is the touch 
ing feature of this contest. They might be outwitted in skirmishes 
and be drawn into ambuscades, but in fightfrig in the open, when prin 
ciple, courage, and honesty were the heaviest guns, they won. Through 
the alertness of his friends, Mr. Hamlin quickly ascertained the for 
mation of a plot to cheat him out of a reelection, even if he should be 
renominated in his party s regular caucus. It appears that the Hun 
kers overreached themselves in their desire to pledge a member of the 
House to join in their contemplated bolt. Secretary French had sus 
pected that the Hunkers were brewing mischief at their mysterious 
conferences with Governor Dana. He obtained proof of his suspicions. 
A representative named Small, of Newry, told Mr. French that Bion 
Bradbury had informed him that the Hunkers would not support Mr. 
Hamlin, and if necessary to defeat him would remain out of the party 
caucus, so as to escape being bound by its action. Mr. French warned 
Mr. Hamlin in December, 1849, an ^ added these prophetic words to his 
letter : 

" Desperate and reckless, they (the pro-slavery men) will make a 
push for power under Dana such has never been seen in this State. . . . 
I have no hope in their prudence; it is rather in their recklessness and 
imprudence which will excite indignation, and justify bold retaliatory 
measures, that I see hopes of health and success to the party." 

Mr. French was right. With all the zeal of a newly made convert, 
Governor Dana lent the aid of his office to the schemes of his faction 
to strengthen the pro-slavery machine in its tricky fight against Mr. 
Hamlin. Few men who have occupied the governor s chair in Maine 
ever prostituted the power of their office to a baser purpose, or more 
willfully violated the sentiment of the State, than Mr. Dana did in this 
fight between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery Democracy. This was 
a great pity, for in his private life Mr. Dana was an upright man, of 
whom better things had been expected. But he worshiped the politi 
cian s god, party action, and fell. In spite of his professed belief 
in the rule of the majority, the rights of the States, the sentiment of 
Maine, the warnings and protests of the majority of his party, Gov 
ernor Dana s last important act before retiring from office was to 
fill all the offices at his disposal, which were a large number and im 
portant, with bitter and avowed supporters of the doctrine of slavery 

This act, in a strong anti-slavery State at this crisis, carries its own 
condemnation. The feelings of the anti-slavery Democracy may be 
more easily imagined than described. It infuriated them to see the 
power of the state government employed to thwart the wishes of 


the vast majority ; they felt as if circumstances were conspiring to tie 
them hand and foot. But without going further into the details of 
Governor Dana s acts, their importance may be readily gathered from 
the following terse letter of comment that Senator Hamlin wrote Mr. 
Haines, January n, 1850: 

" I have seen the appointments to which you allude. I did not 
doubt, nor do I now, that they are made mainly to injure me. ... I 
know the desperation with which I am to be fought, and while I am 
not at all nervous, yet, of course, I have some anxiety. I fear the use 
of money against me. Yet with prudence and proper effort all will 
be well. The acts of Governor Dana will react with terrible force." 

There were other reasons why Mr. Hamlin felt himself master of 
the situation. This involves a short explanation of his political 
methods. When he went into a political fight, in which his own 
fortunes were at stake, he usually formulated a plan of action and 
selected his lieutenants. He assigned to each a specific line of work, 
but always kept to himself the plan in its entirety. The reason of 
this is easily understood when it is remembered that it was Mr. 
Hamlin s nature to command and to adopt the simplest methods to 
obtain a result. He trusted and believed in his friends, but he feared 
accidents and confusion. Now, while Mr. Haines, Mr. French, Mr. 
Sewall, and other of Mr. Hamlin s lieutenants were each following 
up certain details, Mr. Hamlin had men, unknown to his chief sup 
porters, at work in other parts of the State carrying out other direc 
tions. The business intrusted to Mr. Haines and his associates was 
to help Mr. Hamlin keep his forces intact ; the task devolving on the 
second group of lieutenants was to assist Mr. Hamlin in dividing his 
opponents and upsetting their plans. 

This programme was well carried out, and with results that were 
not without an amusing side. In the beginning of this campaign, the 
Hunkers had intended to make a fight in the caucus against Mr. 
Hamlin ; and they thought of a bolt as a last desperate expedient. 
They encouraged Mr. Dana to enter the lists, hoping that by an 
energetic use of the patronage he might weaken Mr. Hamlin s forces 
and perhaps beat him. This was good Hunker argument. But as 
the campaign waxed hot, the Hunkers found their chance of defeat 
ing Mr. Hamlin in the caucus melting away ; it was ascertained that 
Dana could not carry his own county, Oxford, and he was therefore 
dropped. At this juncture the pro-slavery leaders decided to bring 
forward Bion Bradbury as their candidate. He was willing, and 
forthwith began to travel all over Maine, organizing his own cam 
paign. There was no secret about it ; the Hunker leaders backed 
Bradbury, and his friends made great claims for him. This was the 
situation several months before the legislature convened. 


Although Bradbury had small chance of success, he evinced, in so 
marked a degree, a talent for organization, and an ability for pulling 
wires, that Mr. Hamlin quickly recognized in him a dangerous oppo 
nent. If Bion Bradbury had lived in New York city, where his 
peculiarly adroit political ability would have found a suitable field, he 
doubtless might have attained great prominence as a political leader. 
He was a member of the National Executive Committee of the De 
mocratic party for many years, and exercised no mean influence in 
its councils, though he was but little known outside of Maine. Mr. 
Hamlin took measures to head Bradbury off. It appears that in 
selecting Bradbury for their candidate, the Hunker leaders had 
omitted to consult their rank and file. Mr. Hamlin took advantage 
of this ; Mr. Bradbury, who was still young in politics, overlooked the 
circumstance. While he was spending time and money in traveling 
over Maine, Mr. Hamlin was quietly laying plans to trip him up. For 
example, Mr. Hamlin intimated to a confidential friend in Cumberland 
County that he would like to have it suggested to the Hunkers there 
that John Anderson, of that county, ought to have the support of his 
own district. This pleased the friends of Mr. Anderson, who, by the 
way, was a popular and able man, and they brought him forward as 
their candidate, with results to be noted later. Mr. Hamlin intro 
duced clever tactics in other counties, and before long the Hunkers 
had a very interesting contest in their own camp to settle, without 
dreaming how it originated. 

Other incidents happened as the campaign progressed from stage 
to stage that showed Mr. Hamlin s knowledge of men and politics. 
During his long career he made very few mistakes in choosing 
friends. It is true, too, that he never forgot a friend who helped 
him, or an enemy who willfully harmed him. In this campaign, Mr. 
Hamlin s letters to his friends are proofs of his shrewd and clear 
estimates of the promises of men. There were over one hundred 
Democrats in the legislature ; the canvass lasted more than ten 
months, and during a large part of that time Mr. Hamlin s own lieu 
tenants disagreed as to the number of votes he would receive in the 
caucus. In December, 1849, Mr. Hamlin wrote George P. Sewall, 
who was to be his manager in the House, that the Hunkers would 
nominate John Anderson, and would cast not over twenty-five votes 
in the House. Mr. Sewall, a very clever politician, and on the ground, 
too, dissented from these predictions. He said Bion Bradbury would 
be the Hunker nominee, and would poll more votes than Mr. Hamlin 
had figured that he would. But Anderson was the Hunkers man, 
and for two months his vote in the House averaged twenty-five. In 
March, 1850, Mr. Hamlin wrote Mr. Haines that on the lowest esti 
mate he would have sixty-one votes in the House and eleven in the 


Senate. Precisely the same time Bradbury claimed that he would 
have forty-seven votes in the House, and he boasted of this to Sewall, 
who reported it to Mr. Hamlin. Commenting on this, in a letter to 
Mr. Haines, Mr. Hamlin said : " The Dana clique know absolutely 
nothing about the senatorial question. They cannot beat me." Be 
tween March and May, when the caucus was held, Mr. Hamlin gained 
some votes. He then announced that he would have sixty-seven votes 
in the House and eleven in the Senate. This was the exact vote by 
which he was nominated. Mr. Hamlin s private correspondence shows 
that during the entire canvass he was in doubt about only two Demo 
crats out of the one hundred or more in the legislature. After much 
promising and fair talk these men went against him. 

When the legislature at last met, in May, 1850, it was proved that 
Mr. Hamlin s forces outnumbered the Hunkers nearly three to one. 
Men came forward and were counted. This was a crushing blow to 
the pro-slavery machine, after the bluster its leaders had made about 
beating Mr. Hamlin in the caucus. But the crowning humiliation 
the Hunker leaders suffered was when they discovered that their rank 
and file had got away from them, and would not accept Bion Brad 
bury as their candidate, even after his hard work in organizing the 
Hunker campaign against Mr. Hamlin. The leaders were greatly 
disgusted, Bradbury was very sore, while Mr. Hamlin was secretly 
much amused. The pro-slavery men were indeed so confused over 
this difficulty that they could not agree on a candidate for several 
days. All they could do at first was to decide on a bolt, and to stay 
out of the party caucus. The fact is the Hunkers never learned how 
Bion Bradbury was bowled out of the great senatorial contest of 1850 
and John Anderson brought forward in his place. The story has 
never been told before. It is possible that this ruse saved Mr. Ham 
lin s reelection. Bradbury was a member of the House, and had he 
been the Hunkers nominee, it was among the possibilities that he 
might in that capacity have prevented the legislature from electing 
a senator. His cunning, adroitness, and gift for intrigue made him 
feared ; his defeat lessened his prestige. Mr. Hamlin s efforts to pull 
Bradbury out of the field show that he was convinced there was a 
necessity for it. The incident evidences how hard Mr. Hamlin had 
to fight in ante-bellum days to remain in the Senate as an anti-slavery 

The long looked for caucus took place on May 20 ; Mr. Hamlin was 
nominated in the House by a vote of 67 to i for Dana, and in the 
Senate by 1 1 to i for Nathan Clifford. The Hunkers carried out 
their threats, and refused to enter the caucus. They sent Shepard 
Cary, however, to the senate caucus to make their official declaration 


of war. Gary s speech was an effort to read Mr. Hamlin out of the 
Democratic party. It was an unscrupulous misrepresentation and a 
garbled version of Mr. Hamlin s relations with the Democracy ; but 
it is of special interest as an exposition of the curious ideas men of 
Gary s stamp had of the anti-slavery Democratic leaders. He was a 
bold, energetic man, and had a considerable following among the rural 
Hunkers of Aroostook County ; indeed, he entertained ambitions to 
succeed Senator Bradbury. The principal points in Gary s speech 
were summarized in the "Bangor Democrat," the pro-slavery organ 
of eastern Maine, as a serious indictment against Mr. Hamlin in the 
following language : 

" It was openly charged in the caucus against Mr. Hamlin, that he had 
been the ally of John P. Hale, of New Hampshire, in treasonable designs 
against the Democratic party ; that he had been closely connected in sen 
timent, sympathy, and action with the Wilmots of Pennsylvania and the 
Van Burens of New York, who had successfully conspired against the 
Democratic party of the nation and defeated the election of General Cass ; 
. . . that he was an opponent of the measures of the last Democratic 
administration, and had denounced James K. Polk as a weak man, a sec 
ond edition of John Tyler, not much improved ; that he favored the bring 
ing forward of Mr. Van Buren against General Cass as a candidate for 
President ; that he had approved the action of the Buffalo convention, and 
though Mr. Hamlin was in this city (Augusta) at the time, he denied none 
of these charges or allegations except that relating to the Buffalo conven 

This indictment was a bold perversion of facts ; yet that is not sur 
prising considering the fact that it was framed by men who believed 
both in human slavery and party servitude. It was simply a pretext ; 
it was drawn up by men who supported slavery to give their partisan- 
blinded followers formulated reasons for bolting Mr. Hamlin. He 
could be sacrificed on the altar of party fetich, party action. It was 
a solemn indictment in the eyes of men who regarded slavery as a 
sacred institution and consecrated by the Constitution ; it stiffened 
the backbones of thirty odd Hunkers who voted against Mr. Hamlin 
for two months in this session of the legislature. But the fact was, 
Mr. Hamlin supported Cass, though against his wishes ; he supported 
the principal measures of the Polk administration, though not its 
pro-slavery policy ; he supported Levi Woodbury against Van Buren 
and Cass in the Democratic National Convention of 1848 ; he did not 
indorse the action of the Buffalo convention. This last story was 
pure invention ; the man who was responsible for it showed a tele 
gram from E. S. Hamlin, a Whig of Ohio, to the Buffalo conven 
tion, and out of this concocted the story about Senator Hamlin. It 
seems incredible, in view of Mr. Hamlin s character, his public record, 


and the palpable falsity of these charges, that they should have had 
an effect against him ; but men who in their hearts upheld slavery 
could not but take a perverted view of a man who opposed the insti 
tution. That is all that need be said. 

The Hunkers now claimed that they were the real Democracy and 
that Mr. Hamlin was an "unsound Democrat." They ignored the 
fact that their national party had not as yet authoritatively accepted 
the doctrine of slavery extension in its national conventions ; they 
repudiated the principle of state rights in the case of their own 
State ; they denied the rule of the majority in their own local party. 
After this inconsistency, it was not strange that in their blindness 
they should dethrone their own god, party action. They rejected 
the action of the regular party caucus, and then entered into a corrupt 
bargain with the Whigs to defeat their own party. This involved 
even a further violation of party usages and personal pledges, and the 
scheme, therefore, requires an explanation. There were five vacan 
cies in the Senate, owing to failures to elect. The legislature was 
compelled to fill these vacancies. The long established custom was 
for the senators and representatives from the county where a vacancy 
existed to meet in a party caucus and nominate candidates from whom 
the legislature made its choice. The anti-slavery Democrats honor 
ably and loyally abided by this custom. For example, there had been 
a failure to elect in a district in Washington County. George M. 
Chase, a Hunker, who was the regular nominee on his party s ticket, 
was duly nominated by the Democratic delegates from Washington 
County, and elected by the votes of the anti-slavery Democrats over 
the Whig nominee. But the Hunkers broke faith in a Cumberland 
County district. There had been two Democratic candidates before 
the people in this district : Charles Megquier, an anti-slavery man, 
and George F. Shepley, a Hunker. The Cumberland Democratic 
senators and representatives nominated Mr. Megquier by a vote of 
seven to two and made the nomination unanimous. But the Hun 
kers, having elected Chase, now burned their last bridge ; they made 
a combination with the Whigs and elected Shepley the day after the 
senatorial caucus. 

This was the most serious blow Mr. Hamlin had yet received. By 
electing Shepley the coalition had proved that it could control the 
legislature, and no man could foresee how long it would hang together. 
Truly, " politics makes strange bedfellows." Here were the anti- 
slavery Whigs working with pro-slavery Democrats to punish a states 
man for fighting the slave power. Yet it was the politics of the day. 
The Whigs justified their course by claiming that it would help them to 
elect a Whig to succeed Senator Bradbury the next year. 1 The anti- 

1 It is an interesting fact that in 1851 the pro-slavery Democrats bolted Lot 


slavery Democrats were naturally much alarmed over this turn of 
affairs, and at once summoned Mr. Hamlin from Washington. 

When he arrived at Augusta, he found the situation more compli 
cated than when the coalition was first formed. The Hunkers were 
leaving no stone unturned to accomplish* his defeat, and were now 
concentrating their efforts on the Senate. Mr. Hamlin had eleven 
supporters there, but sixteen votes were necessary to elect him in a 
full vote, thirty-one. If the four doubtful senators voted for Mr. 
Hamlin, that would give him fifteen votes, or within one of an elec 
tion. In that event there was danger of the Free-Soilers coming to 
Mr. Hamlin s rescue. They were having mysterious conferences by 
themselves, and no one outside of their councils could say what they 
would do. The Hunkers laid plans to get control of the Senate, and 
also to lead the doubtful senators off on a collateral issue. They 
tried to elect Shepard Gary president of the Senate, and attempted to 
bribe a senator to vote for him on the promise that Gary would re 
sign, and he should be promoted to the presiding chair. This was the 
Chase-Dunn trick that beat Mr. Hamlin in 1846 ; the important differ 
ence was that the senator approached this time was an honest man. 
But the other scheme was more dangerous. This was to make it an 
issue with Mr. Hamlin to consent to the rescinding of the resolutions 
he had induced the previous legislature to pass instructing the Maine 
senators and representatives in Congress to oppose all measures favor 
ing the extension of slavery into free soil. The Hunkers argued with 
some plausibility that these resolutions of instruction infringed on the 
liberty of the individual congressmen. Senator Bradbury upheld this 
view by journeying from Washington to Augusta to urge the repeal 
of the resolutions. This made an impression on the doubtful sen 
ators ; they listened, and, listening, they were led away too, to remain 
with the Hunkers to the end. The inevitable result was the sicken 
ing cry of compromise ! 

The councils of the anti-slavery men were divided, and feeling was 
running high when Mr. Hamlin took charge of his campaign. Judge 
R. D. Rice, who was at Augusta, wrote : " I saw Mr. Hamlin to-day. 
He is calm, smiling, confident, and surrounded by friends wherever he 
goes." Almost the first thing Mr. Hamlin did was to gather his sup 
porters together, encourage them, repeat a rule he always laid down 
on entering a party contest, and outline the plan of action. He talked 
to men this time, who always treasured up in their hearts recollec 
tions of moments like this with the leader they loved so well. \Vhat 
Mr. Hamlin said was substantially as follows : 

" My friends, we are going to have a long and hot fight. Now, I 

M. Morrill, an anti-slavery man, and, uniting with the Whigs, elected William 
Pitt Fessenden, a strong anti-slavery man, to the United States Senate. 


want you to keep cool and keep up your courage. Don t abuse my 
opponents ; let them do all the abusing and trading. I am going to 
win, and I want as little hard feeling as possible after it is all over. 
Don t listen, to any offers of compromise. We are standing up for 
our principles. Sink or swim, live or die, I am in this fight to the 
end to keep that accursed thing of slavery out of free soil and the 
Democratic party." Mr. Hamlin s words inspired his followers with 
new zeal and courage, and thereafter he often said of his active sup 
porters in this campaign, " No man ever had more devoted friends." 
Among the group who stood close to him now were a number of men 
who were known in their day as faithful and creditable legislators. 
In the Senate was Paulinus M. Foster, of North Anson, the presi 
dent ; Noah Prince, of Buckfield ; Robert A. Chapman, of Bethel ; 
Sheldon Hobbs, of North Berwick ; Thomas M. Morrow, of Sears- 
port ; William Milliken, of Burnham ; James Lancaster, of Northport ; 
Benjamin Rhea, of Brooksville ; Amos Pickard, of Hampden ; Wil 
liam R. Hersey, of Lincoln, and Nehemiah Bartlett, of Garland. In 
the House were Samuel Belcher, of Farmington, the speaker ; George 
P. Sewall, of Old Town ; Samuel Jordan, of Westbrook ; John Good- 
ell, of Hampden ; Ebenezer Knowlton, of Montville ; Daniel Rogers, 
of Windham ; Daniel Chamberlain, of Bristol ; Jeremiah Tolman, of 
Rockland ; Wyer G. Sargent, of Sedgwick ; Josiah Harmon, of Thorn- 
dyke ; Lorin D. Hayes, then of Garland, and General William S. 
Cochran, of Waldoboro. These men with those already mentioned 
formed a veritable body-guard in this fight, and Mr. Hamlin never 
forgot them. The majority followed him into the Republican party. 

The coalition, having control of the situation, forced a resolution 
through the legislature by a narrow majority, postponing the election 
of senator for a month until June 25. This gave the Hunkers 
more time to make trouble, and they improved their opportunity. 
The day Mr. Hamlin left Augusta to return to Washington, he met 
Charles Stackpole, the editor of a Portland Free-Soil newspaper, who 
asked him his views about the scheme that Stephen A. Douglas was 
advocating to annex Cuba to the United States. Douglas s object 
was to strengthen himself with the slave power ; but while Mr. Ham 
lin did not entertain a high opinion of Douglas and his policy, he 
nevertheless refrained from discussing this matter, for the reason that 
he did not wish to introduce any more issues in his senatorial cam 
paign. Mr. Hamlin contented himself with alluding to his attitude 
towards slavery. His exact words were : " My course towards slavery 
is well known. I have taken that course and I will adhere to it, sink 
or swim, live or die. Mr. Stackpole published a correct report of 
the interview, and the incident should have ended there. But the 


Hunkers saw an advantage offered them, and although the course of 
procedure involved was unscrupulous and dishonorable in the extreme, 
they seized the opportunity presented. At this time the public mind 
was easily inflamed against the Abolitionists ; they were bitterly de 
nounced as disunionists and marplots. While they were animated by 
the purest of motives, it is nevertheless a question for the philo 
sophical historians to decide whether the Abolitionists were a help or 
a hindrance to the men who actually exterminated slavery, however 
much their agitation contributed to forcing the issue. To charge an 
anti-slavery leader of Mr. Hamlin s status at this time with sympa 
thizing with the Abolitionists, who advocated disunion, and called the 
Constitution "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell," 1 
was a gross libel on him and an insult to the thousands of men who 
supported anti-slavery leaders. But this is what the pro-slavery Demo 
crats in their desperation did charge against Mr. Hamlin. The fact 
that Mr. Hamlin had given an interview to a Free-Soil newspaper was 
proof to the blind that he was an Abolitionist ; they could not see 
that the incident served the pro-slavery leaders as a pretext to malign 
Mr. Hamlin. So a wave of passion swept over the pro-slavery party ; 
their newspapers shrieked in leaded type that Hamlin was an Aboli 
tionist ! Even two months after this crusade was started the " Bangor 
Democrat," in common with newspapers of its kind, kept up the charge. 
Here is one extract from its issue of July 23, 1850, which shows how 
willfully Mr. Hamlin was misrepresented in consequence of the Stack- 
pole interview : 

" Mr. Hamlin has for years been engaged in the unholy work of 
agitation, and in bringing the Union into danger ; if nine tenths of the 
people are ready to say, Never again introduce into our conventions 
resolutions touching the question of slavery, they must also be pre 
pared to say, Do not elect Mr. Hamlin senator, for he is one of the 
chief agitators and false friends of the Union. . . . He has trifled 
with the Union and the Democratic party too much to be rewarded 
with an important office for six years. To elect him would be to offer 
a large bounty to those who would imperil the Union." 

The balloting for senator began on June 20, with the House lead 
ing off ; the Senate followed five days later. The Hunkers, still in a 
quandary over their candidate, made an audacious move to seduce 
Governor Hubbard into accepting their nomination by voting for him. 
On the first ballot 149 votes were cast ; 75 were necessary for a 
choice. Mr. Hamlin received 67, eight less than was needed for an 
election. The Hunkers threw 20 votes for Hubbard ; the Whigs, 42 
for George Evans ; the Free-Soilers or Abolitionists, 15 for General 
Fessenden ; and the rest were scattering. The next day Governor 
1 William Lloyd Garrison. 


Hubbard wrote a letter forbidding the use of his name, and urging 
the Democrats to support the regular nominee. The Hunkers then 
concentrated on John Anderson, the man Mr. Hamlin predicted they 
would have to take up. The Senate balloted five times on June 25. 
Mr. Hamlin received 13 votes, or three short of a majority; Mr. 
Evans had seven ; Mr. Anderson six, General Fessenden four and five. 
The first test demonstrated, therefore, that ten Hunkers had the bal 
ance of power, if the contest continued a straight party fight. If ten 
Hunkers would vote for Mr. Hamlin they could elect him. The pro- 
slavery men made a point of this, as will appear later. 

A week s balloting followed without a result. The Senate made 
eleven attempts to break the deadlock, the House ten. It would be 
tedious reading if the details of the voting were recorded. It is suf 
ficient to say that with a single exception, when Mr. Hamlin came 
within four votes of an election in the House, the situation remained 
unchanged. At the end of the week, when the coalition found that 
Mr. Hamlin s forces could not be broken, the election was again post 
poned for a month, after another sharp fight and close vote. The 
Hunkers object this time was to renew their struggle to rescind Mr. 
Hamlin s resolutions of instructions. But their Whig allies deserted 
them on this move, and the legislature by an overwhelming vote re 
affirmed the principle laid down by Mr. Hamlin. Still the Hunkers 
persevered. They tried a trick. Some of their Bangor friends drew 
up resolutions that pretended to reaffirm Mr. Hamlin s resolutions, 
but which stopped short of actual instructions. The plan was to rush 
this bogus affair through the legislature, if they could catch it nap 
ping. John S. Chadwick got hold of a copy of the resolutions before 
they were set in type in the office of the " Bangor Democrat." When 
the printed articles arrived at Augusta, there was a roar of laughter 
from Mr. Hamlin s friends. 

And now the Hunkers began to talk once more of compromise ; 
they sang of harmony ; l they said Mr. Hamlin could be elected if he 
would give up his resolutions of instructions ; all he needed was ten 
votes ! But the die was cast ; the end of the long fight was near. 
Mr. Hamlin had made a strong fight for reelection as a strict party 
man, and for two months his forces had worked according to party 
usages. He was the choice of the majority of his party, and his re 
election had been prevented by a minority that had adopted irregular 
and unscrupulous methods. He had won a moral victory, and was 
now justified in accepting help outside of party lines. He did this. 

1 Mr. Hamlin wrote Mr. Haines on July 4, 1850: "When I was at Augusta, I 
was sounded on rescinding the resolutions of last year." He replied : " I will obey 
your instructions, or resign." He added to Haines: "You must not consent to 
place me in a position which will demand of me an acquiescence in the extension 
of slavery." 


There were about twenty Free-Soilers or Abolitionists in the legis 
lature. The majority would have voted for Mr. Hamlin at any time 
if they were certain their votes could elect him. But they were good 
enough politicians to know that their open support of Mr. Hamlin 
might repel strict party Democrats, who were voting for him because 
he was their regular nominee. Then again, while there were enough 
Free-Soilers in the House to elect Mr. Hamlin in that body, it was 
doubtful whether three of the Free-Soilers in the Senate, or just the 
number needed, would vote for him. Two were certain of helping ; 
one was uncertain, and all depended on this man. He was a cautious 
old man by the name of Ozias Blanchard, of the town of Blanchard. 
At this juncture General Samuel Fessenden, Mr. Hamlin s former 
law preceptor, Joshua R. Giddings, and Neal Dow came to Mr. Ham 
lin s aid. 1 Another who aided Mr. Hamlin at this time was Isaac 
Dyer, of Baldwin, long a powerful leader in the politics of Maine. He 
was then an anti-slavery Whig, and afterwards a Republican. Mr. 
Hamlin spoke of Mr. Dyer as one of the ablest politicians he ever 
knew, and a friend as true as steel. General Fessenden was the 
nominee of the Free-Soil party, and it is not necessary to say that 
he was loyal to it ; but he had no hope of an election, and it angered 
him to see the pro-slavery Democrats persecute Senator Hamlin for 
fighting slavery. Fessenden corresponded with Giddings and brought 
their joint influence to bear on Blanchard. They convinced him that 
it was his duty to help Mr. Hamlin, and finally he consented. 

Mr. Hamlin s success seemed now assured. But something hap 
pened that threatened shipwreck at the last moment. The legisla 
ture had voted to resume balloting for senator on July 25, and in the 
time that elapsed after the trial in June, one of Mr. Hamlin s friends 
in the House, Lorin D. Hayes, of Garland, was seized with a bad at 
tack of typhoid fever, and was now dangerously ill. But Hayes was 
one of those simple, faithful men willing to trust all to a leader who 
their hearts tell them is true. Hayes sent word to his friends in the 
House : " Any time my vote will elect Hannibal Hamlin to the 
United States Senate, I will come to the House, if you have to carry 
me on my dying bed." 

On July 25 the House prepared to take a ballot. When the result 
was announced, Mr. Hamlin had received 75 votes out of 150, or one 
short of an election. A score or more of men dashed out of the House 
in an instant, and bolted into Hayes s room. Picking him up, bed and 

1 The author is indebted to General Dow for a personal account of this inci 
dent. Neal Dow was already a leader at this early period, and was noted for his 
immense will power and devotion to principle. He was an influential factor in 
this battle, and his friendship with Mr. Hamlin was never broken. See his Remi 


all, they moved as rapidly as it was safe to the House. When they 
appeared with the sick man on his bed, pandemonium reigned for 
a moment among the anti-slavery Democrats. The next ballot was 
taken amidst breathless excitement, and when it was announced that 
Mr. Hamlin was elected, having received 77 votes, his friends were 
wild with joy. Then there was a rush to the senate chamber just as 
that body was preparing to ballot. 

The situation in the Senate at this juncture was very delicate. Of 
the thirteen senators who voted for Mr. Hamlin, two had been led 
away from him once on the issue raised over the instructions to con 
gressmen. They were conservative on the slavery question, but voted 
for Mr. Hamlin as the regular nominee. There was grave danger 
that they might bolt him if they had learned the Free-Soilers were 
going to vote for him. It was indeed suspected that one of them 
would have opposed Mr. Hamlin, if his constituents had not remon 
strated with him over his course in voting with the coalition to post 
pone the election. 

Blanchard was the leader of the Free-Soil men, and they agreed to 
look to him for instructions and signals. The Senate prepared to 
ballot, when the cheers from the House announced that Mr. Hamlin 
had won in that body. Blanchard looked at his coadjutors on the 
other side of the chamber, and, placing his left hand in his side coat 
pocket, pulled out a ballot. This was the signal, though of course 
the Hunkers did not suspect it. Blanchard and Newman T. Allen, 1 
of Industry, cast their votes for Mr. Hamlin, while a third Free-Soiler 
threw a blank vote, and two did not vote at all. Thus, 29 votes were 
cast, and Mr. Hamlin, having 15, or a majority, was elected. This 
was accomplished and announced so quickly that the Hunkers sat 
as if in a dream. They had not suspected that the Free-Soilers 
would come over this time. They sat sullen and dejected, while 
the happy, exultant Hamlin men made the senate chamber ring with 
their cheers. 

There was great jubilation among the anti-slavery people of Maine, 
irrespective of party, over Mr. Hamlin s triumph. The Democrats 
rang bells, and lighted fires along the hilltops. The anti-slavery 
press throughout the country generally rejoiced over Mr. Hamlin s 
reelection. Perhaps the most interesting comment made at the time 
was one that appeared in the "New York Evening Post," edited 
by William Cullen Bryant, which was then the leading organ of the 
Wright Democracy of the Empire State. Mr. Hamlin met Bryant 
soon after he entered Congress. Though not meeting frequently, 
their relations were very cordial. The editorial was as follows : 

1 Charles J. Talbot and George W. Whitney arranged a private Free-Soil meet 
ing at Farmington, to which Mr. Allen was invited. Mr. Talbot read Mr. Ham 
lin s anti-slavery speeches, and this won Mr. Allen s vote for Mr. Hamlin. 


" With examples of treachery and faltering around him for the past 
three years, Mr. Hamlin has not swerved a hair s breadth from the 
rectitude of his course as an opponent of slavery extension in every 
shape in which the scheme has presented itself. His reelection was 
resisted by the Hunker Democrats upon this ground alone. He had 
been true to his professions and to the principles of the party before 
the propagandism of this institution was foisted and intruded into its 
success. He might have trimmed and temporized and secured suc 
cess without effort, but he chose to make no concessions. He was 
nobly sustained by his friends, and notwithstanding the open and 
continued defection and desertion of the Hunkers, has triumphed 
over them by just the requisite number of votes. He is a safe, 
rational, and comprehensive statesman." l 

But the result of this contest in Maine had more than a personal 
or local significance, which is readily recognized when the contem 
porary happenings of the day are considered. Mr. Hamlin s return 
to the United States Senate, by a union of anti-slavery Democrats 
and Free-Soilers, was accomplished about the same time as Thomas 
H. Benton s defeat in Missouri for reelection to the Senate, after 
thirty years service in that body, by a combination of pro-slavery 
Democrats and Whigs ; and these events were followed by Charles 
Sumner s first election to the Senate, in the succeeding January, by 
the united votes of Free-Soil Whigs and anti-slavery Democrats. The 
anti-slavery people of the North were coming together ; the pro- 
slavery people of the South were joining forces. The Republican 
party of the North and the aggressive pro-slavery Democracy of the 
South were forming. 

Finally, Mr. Hamlin s vindication furnished evidence of the disposi 
tion and ability of the Northern masses to support leaders who were 
right on the slavery issue, in the face of great obstacles and induce 
ments to act against them. It must be remembered that every na 
tional administration since 1840, except that of General Taylor, had 
favored the extension of slavery into free soil, or had yielded in part 
to the demands of the slave power ; the fact must not be forgotten 
that great Northern statesmen and powerful party leaders, such as 
Webster, Cass, and Douglas, counseled compromise or surrender on 
the slavery issue ; it must also be borne in mind that the Democratic 
party was now a great machine in the hands of the slavery propa 
gandists, and was bribing the press and politicians with patronage to 
support its policy ; it is necessary, also, to consider the influence of 
the conservative element at the North, that feared a change and pro 
tested against the agitation of -the slavery issue ; yet, when it would 

1 It may be said, on the authority of Parke Godwin, that Bryant wrote this 


have been easier to compromise, when Webster s courage failed him, 
and Cass and Douglas tried to obscure the issue with their sophistries, 
when great commercial interests allied themselves with the slave 
oligarchy, the Northern masses saw their duty clearly, and followed 
the right leaders to the end. The slavery question at this period was 
peculiarly complicated. The intelligent and sympathetic cooperation 
that anti-slavery leaders such as Mr. Hamlin received from the rank 
and file of their party at this time is in itself a striking proof of the 
ability of a people reared under the influence of free institutions to 
govern themselves, and decide civic and moral problems of vital im 
portance to the State and untold generations to come. 



THE approach of the presidential campaign of 1852 made the Demo 
cratic party anxious for harmony, and the leaders began to work tb 
this end soon after the compromise measures of 1850 had an effect 
of quietude on the country. While it may never be known what the 
leaders in the inner circles of the slave oligarchy plotted and planned 
in advance of the Democratic National Convention of 1852, it is 
certain that, with the possible exception of these marplots, the 
Democratic party was desirous of a reconciliation on the basis of the 
compromise plan. The sincerity of the party in this respect cannot 
be doubted. The leaders of the wing to which Colonel Benton and 
Senator Hamlin belonged accepted the situation in good faith, and 
initiated a movement to nominate Levi Woodbury, of New Hamp 
shire, for President. Woodbury s untimely death in September, 
1851, nine months before the convention, renders speculation futile 
as to his chances of the nomination ; yet the incident may be re 
viewed with profit, since the Woodbury movement assumed formida 
ble proportions, and seemed to promise success. There is also a 
little history connected with it that has never before been published, 
and which throws some light behind the scenes on the Democratic 

Mr. Hamlin was both a practical statesman and politician. The 
situation that was presented and his duty were equally clear to him. 
He decided to remain with his party and strive for the nomination of 
a man for President who in his opinion possessed the requisite ability, 
training, honesty, and firmness to maintain the existing balance of 
conditions in regard to slavery that had been established under the 
Constitution and the Clay compromises. He made a reservation in 
the case of the Fugitive Slave Law that has already been explained. 
He thought that Woodbury fulfilled the necessary qualifications, and 
he had a high personal regard for the distinguished jurist. The con 
sideration of availability also influenced Mr. Hamlin to favor Wood- 
bury. He had peculiar qualifications in this respect. He came down 
from the Jacksonian era ; he had been a senator, a cabinet officer ; he 
was now an able member of the United States Supreme Court ; he 
occupied middle ground on the slavery question, and finally was a 


New England man. Then, again, the candidacies of Cass, Buchanan, 
and Douglas would make Woodbury the best man in Mr. Hamlin s 
opinion, by the simple process of exclusion. He once voted for Cass 
under protest, and he never favored Buchanan or Douglas for the 
presidency. Some men, who appeared to know more about Mr. Ham 
lin s affairs than he did, asserted that he favored Douglas at this 
time. This story, indeed, was published in the Portland "Argus." 
The truth is that while Mr. Hamlin might prefer pleasant rather 
than unpleasant personal relations with Douglas as a brother senator 
and party colleague, he regarded the " Little Giant " as a tricky 
and insincere politician, whose success in hoodwinking upright and 
able men he always regretted. 

The story of Woodbury s campaign begins with the spring of 1851. 
After Benton s retirement from the Senate he was elected to the 
House, and he and Mr. Hamlin maintained their close personal and 
party relations. It was understood that Colonel Benton was to pro 
mote Woodbury s interests throughout the West and South, while 
Senator Hamlin was to direct the campaign in New England ; at the 
same time Benton arranged to supervise the editorial conduct of the 
canvass. He gave the key to Woodbury s followers by apostrophiz 
ing the jurist as the "rock of New England Democracy." The New 
Hampshire Democrats formally opened the campaign by presenting 
Judge Woodbury as New England s candidate. The plan was to 
have other States follow. Correspondence between Benton and 
Hamlin throws some light on the inside situation. Benton wrote to 
Mr. Hamlin from Washington, June 16 : "I suppose you see from 
the papers that I am here and what I am about, namely, making a 
history of the workings of the government for the thirty years I was 
in the Senate, being a selection of my speeches, with historical notes 
and illustrations. But this does not interfere with other works the 
redemption of the State of Missouri from the Whigs and nullifiers 
and the presidential election. It is on the latter point I now write to 
you. The State of New Hampshire has given through her Demo 
cracy a unanimous nomination to Woodbury. This is a good start. I 
can draw up an article for the papers which will back it, and be under 
stood and felt by the people. I spoke of him (Woodbury) to all my 
friends in the West, and always with the best effect. The time has 
fully come to act. A paper here is essential. You know all my 
views on that point, and I wish to know what are its prospects. Of 
course Mr. Woodbury can have nothing to do with it. His friends 
must act. I shall be here for a month or so, and can give some atten 
tion to the matter. I shall draw up an article anyhow. Where do 
you think it had best be published ? My mind vibrates between 
Maine and Missouri. Which say you ? If Maine, I would send it to 


you to convey to a paper. I feel like I could make a pretty strong 

There was a strong sentiment in favor of Judge Woodbury among 
the Democrats of Maine who followed Mr. Hamlin ; but at the same 
time some of his old friends were greatly* desirous of supporting a 
movement for Sam Houston. Mr. Hamlin believed in Houston 1 and 
liked him as a man, but he saw that Houston was not available. In 
his letters to Judge R. D. Rice, William P. Haines, and others, he 
pointed out that the very qualities and acts of Houston which had 
evoked admiration at the North his opposition to the extension of 
slavery, his attitude towards the Calhoun party would be arguments 
used against him in the South. On the other hand, he dwelt on the 
Hunker opposition in Maine to Woodbury as a point in his favor. 
He believed that Woodbury would veto any measure extending sla 
very. Mr. Hamlin s arguments prevailed, and his friends all went for 

In the mean time, Senator Hamlin became anxious about the New 
York Democracy, and in June, 1851, he wrote Benton. The latter 
replied the 26th of that month as follows : 

" In answer to your inquiry respecting the disposition of our friends in 
New York, I feel myself justified in answering affirmatively ; but to give 
you a kind of assurance which will leave no doubt, you will soon receive a 
communication from our friend Blair, who will go on to New York. 

" I have sketched an article, and as it amplifies, under one of its heads, 
the claim of New England mentioned in the New Hampshire nomination, 
I deem it best to let it appear as a New England article, and therefore will 
send it to you for one of your papers. 

" I am fixed in my opinion about the necessity of a paper here. Unless 
we have an organ here to collect and distribute intelligence, we will hardly 
be able to make Mr. W. accepted as a candidate at all. Be assured he has 
nothing to expect from any paper here but viperous attacks from the Re 
publicans, and no defense from the Union, or worse than none. It should 
not be set up as an opposition paper to the Union/ but a helper. The 
Whigs have two, and they are supported by the whole power of the admin 
istration ; and the Democracy should have two. That is a public reason to 
be given. Another public reason for its open advocacy of Mr. W. should 
be the venomous attacks upon him here, repeated in all the administration 
papers throughout the United States, and which the * Union would not under 
take to answer without seeming to become the advocate of one of the can 
didates which it professes not to become. Submission to the majority of 
a national convention should be a point maintained in the paper. Not only 
not a word against other candidates, but a defense of them ; the harmony 
and reconciliation of the party to be made a leading point. The article 

1 Senator Hamlin wrote to A. M. Robinson, "How I would like to go for old 
Sam ! " 


which I shall send you touches these and other points ; and in my opinion 
chalks out a good line for the new paper. 

"Without such a paper I do not see that we can do anything. A daily 
attack upon a man, from the centre to the circumference, and no defense, 
and he must be overwhelmed." 

Benton wrote Mr. Hamlin another letter the same day : 

" I send you the article mentioned. It is deemed by friends, as well as 
by myself, best that it should appear in a New England paper, and it is 
drawn up as a New England article. The paper that contains it should 
be published in numbers, and a copy sent to every Democratic paper in 
the Union. Besides sending it direct to the papers from the office with 
the article marked, it should be sent to friends in different States to see 
to the publication of it. Send some to me. 

" From further advices I adhere to my declaration that our friends in 
New York will come in. I have also spoken with friends in the South with 
good prospects." 

Benton s editorial was a brilliant presentation of Woodbury s quali 
fications for the presidency, but it is of noteworthy interest in only 
one respect, aside from its general merits, and this may be mentioned. 
Mr. Hamlin had it published in several newspapers in Maine. One 
was the "Bangor Jeffersonian," his organ. Benton claimed that the 
slavery question was settled. In commenting on this, the " Jeffer 
sonian " reflected Mr. Hamlin s views by dissenting from Colonel 
Benton s conclusions, though indorsing his support of Woodbury. 

But, alas ! for the plans of men. When it appeared morally certain 
that Woodbury would go into the Democratic convention with the 
support of New England, and with the good prospect of uniting all 
factions on himself, he was seized with a fatal illness that terminated 
in a week. Mr. Hamlin always spoke of Woodbury s death as a great 
blow to the Democracy at a critical period. True, Woodbury voted 
for the annexation of Texas, but he believed that slavery was a sec 
tional institution, and while he would not interfere with it where it 
existed, he was opposed to the Calhoun doctrine. Knowing Mr. 
Woodbury as well as he did, Mr. Hamlin spoke with authority when 
he said Judge Woodbury would oppose any scheme to extend or dis 
turb slavery in the event of his election to the presidency. Thus if 
Levi Woodbury had been President instead of Franklin Pierce, his 
firmness, honesty, and loyalty would have been unconquerable obsta 
cles to the conspirators who broke down the Missouri Compromise. 
But those who see the hand of fate in the affairs of men believe that 
Pierce was but an instrument in bringing on the crisis which rid the 
country of a loathsome institution it could throw off only through a 
gigantic convulsion. 

Woodbury s death set the New England Democracy at sea. A 


little talk was heard about Franklin Pierce, but that was at first 
believed to mean that he was thinking of becoming a candidate for 
Vice-President. For several months, General William O. Butler, of 
Kentucky, was seriously considered by Benton, Hamlin, and their 
associates as the most available man of the hour. Butler was a man 
of decided ability, forceful character, picturesque personality, and 
natural qualities of leadership. He also had a record that might 
have made him a popular candidate. He distinguished himself by 
his gallantry at the battle of New Orleans, where he was one of 
Andrew Jackson s right-hand men; he had served in the House with 
credit ; he was ranked as one of the leaders at the Kentucky bar, and 
he had demonstrated his personal strength among the masses of his 
State in 1844 by reducing the Whig majority from 20,000 to 5000, as 
the Democratic candidate for governor, the year Henry Clay made 
his strongest run for the presidency. Butler was believed to be 
opposed to the extension of slavery. His refusal of the governorship 
of Nebraska in 1855 under the Pierce administration was convincing 
evidence of this. In short, while Butler was not regarded as a great 
statesman, he was thought to possess the ability and character requi 
site for the presidency and certain possibilities of popularity with the 
masses. Finally, it was believed that he could keep the peace on the 
slavery question. 

Colonel Benton wrote Mr. Hamlin the following interesting letter 
about Butler on October 12, 1851 : 

" I have thought over what you say in relation to Butler, and felt no ob 
jection to him on that score. I have but a poor opinion of what is called 
talents in the United States, and by which is generally understood some 
capacity for speaking and writing without much regard to the judgment 
and moral qualities, without which speaking and writing are empty or 
pernicious. Moral qualities are the first thing with me in a public man ; 
common sense and common judgment will do the rest. I could name 
thousands I would be willing to take for President ; but they have not the 
national name which would carry them before the people. It was the 
remark of Dean Swift, himself a man of genius and the friend of the two 
greatest political geniuses of the day, and in relation to their miscarriages, 
that genius was not necessary in administering government, and was of 
ten hurtful ; and that common sense, honesty of purpose, were all that 
were necessary. This is my opinion, and Butler under that aspect is fully 
qualified. But there is another consideration which was a pretty control 
ling one, when I came into Congress, in the minds of the old Democracy, 
and that was the soundness of his (a statesman s) associates. He must 
not only be sound himself, but have sound associates ; as every President 
must be more or less in the hands of his friends. Under this aspect But 
ler is safe. He has no connection with any clique, fragment, or faction, 
and was voted for by all without a word as Vice-President (in the conven- 


tion of 48, that nominated Cass and Butler). Most of them want him for 
V. P. now. But the overruling idea at present with all our friends is a new 
man, one that has had nothing to do with late events, and, therefore, has 
no section arrayed against him. That idea brought out for Woodbury was 
doing an immensity for him, and Butler, who was to have been V. P. on 
his ticket, now falls heir to it. He is a new man, and has nothing against 
him, and has great personal popularity. It is believed that he can unite 
every Democratic State, and carry the two Whig States of Kentucky and 
Tennessee. Who can you name in N. E. for V. P. if he is taken up ? I 
go to Missouri in three weeks, and will be glad to hear from you again." 

About this time a number of Judge Woodbury s former leading 
supporters in New England held several conferences at Boston to 
further General Butler s candidacy. Charles Levi Woodbury, son of 
the jurist, was already coming forward as a leader in the Boston 
Democracy. He was Mr. Hamlin s lifelong friend. Mr. Hamlin on 
several occasions found Mr. Woodbury a safe and sound adviser. In 
the fisheries incident, for example, Mr. Woodbury furnished Senator 
Hamlin with valuable data and information. Mr. Woodbury took 
part in the Butler movement, and in a personal letter to the author, 
under date of August 4, 1896, gave some interesting facts concerning 
the chief conference at Boston. An understanding was reached to 
favor the nominations of General Butler for President and General 
Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire, for Vice-President. Mr. Wood- 
bury also noted that for the next few months the New Hampshire 
Democracy continued to support Butler and Pierce in such a way that 
Pierce might be placed at the head of the ticket or the foot. They 
had the idea that Pierce instead of Butler should fall heir to the 
Woodbury movement, and they worked to this end. 

But the Butler movement was destined to failure. The reasons 
may not be detailed. The incident is noticed for the purpose of em 
phasizing the course that Senator Hamlin, Colonel Benton, and men 
of their kind pursued in the hope of saving the Democracy from fall 
ing completely into the hands of the slavery propagandists. It may 
be said, briefly, that Butler was not the kind of man the Southern 
Democracy wanted. There was now a new Southern Democracy, 
but that fact was not fully grasped by the anti-Calhoun wing. Its 
leaders were aggressive ; undoubtedly they had a secret understand 
ing among themselves to force the nomination of a man who would do 
their bidding, break down the Missouri Compromise. This was of 
course not even suspected at the time, and will be more fully alluded 
to in the proper place. These leaders were determined to reject the 
Democracy of Jefferson, Macon, Pinckney, and Jackson. They there 
fore likewise rejected the followers of the apostle of the true Demo 
cracy, which would uphold the Constitution, and give slavery only the 


rights granted it by that instrument. The memory of Jackson was 
growing hateful to them. Did not Old Hickory say in his dying 
hours that posterity would never forgive him for not hanging John 
C. Calhoun when he attempted to withdraw South Carolina from the 
Union when Jackson was President ? Why, then, should they listen 
to Benton, and make Butler President, a man who was one of the 
last of the iron Jackson stock ? 

Although there were many Butler delegates elected to the Demo 
cratic National Convention, it was apparent a few months before the 
convention assembled in June, 1852, that Butler lacked support in 
the South, and he practically retired from the contest. Neverthe 
less, some of Butler s friends decided to keep him in reserve, so to 
speak, in the hope that if the convention came to a deadlock over the 
more prominent candidates, it might unite on Butler. Senator Ham- 
lin was one of these men. He was a delegate from Maine. He was 
as strongly opposed as ever to the nomination of Cass, Buchanan, 
Douglas, Marcy, or Jefferson Davis, who were most conspicuously 
before the convention until the last ballot, the forty-ninth. Charles 
Levi Woodbury, who was present with Mr. Hamlin, afterward recalled 
the fact that the Maine delegation was divided, but that Senator Ham 
lin, Lot M. Morrill, who was later his colleague in the Senate, and 
Colonel A. W. H. Clapp, of Portland, all acted together. 

After the convention had struggled several days to make a choice, 
it became apparent that it would be necessary to take a new man. 
When the convention was in a mood to recognize the situation, the 
current beneath the surface turned in favor of Franklin Pierce. There 
were several factors that were instrumental in causing this result. 
The futility of continuing the deadlock was obvious ; the necessity 
of selecting a new man was clear. The New England Democracy 
was clamorous to have a New England man chosen, and preferred 
Pierce. Their claims appeared to be the final consideration that 
tipped the scales in Pierce s favor ; but in reality they were surface 
evidence, though astute observers of political affairs were deceived by 
them. The probable truth is, Pierce owed his nomination to a secret 
understanding between himself and the Calhoun Democracy, which 
was guarded so carefully that only the subsequent acts of Pierce as 
President exposed and at the same time proved its existence. His 
managers in the convention carefully held him back until the last 
moment, when they rushed him into nomination amidst great enthu 
siasm, and he was chosen practically by acclamation. William R. 
King, an amiable and well-liked senator of Alabama, was chosen for 
Vice-President, the compromise measures of 1850 were indorsed, and 
the Democracy, united for the last time in ante-bellum days, went 
forth to do battle against the Whigs. 


The Whig party was now at the end of its career. Signs of ap 
proaching dissolution were manifested in its presidential convention, 
which was the scene of a bitter struggle between various factions. 
President Fillmore desired the nomination, and so did Webster, his 
secretary of state. But a large element favored General Winfield 
Scott, and he was finally chosen. The chances of success seemed 
well divided at the opening of the campaign. But the Whigs were 
doomed. The people, having made up their minds to try the compro 
mise measures of 1850, saw that the Democracy, which had enacted 
them, should be intrusted with their enforcement. The Whig temple 
was also badly shaken by the fall of its two great pillars, Webster 
and Clay, who both died during the campaign. The final cause of 
General Scott s defeat was his persistence in making vain and pom 
pous speeches. The hero of Lundy s Lane and Buena Vista was 
out of his element. Ridicule was turned on him and his defeat was 
overwhelming. He carried only four States. Mr. Hamlin earnestly 
supported Pierce as a party man, though he afterwards regretted this 
as one of the mistakes of his life, and said so. 



FEW men have come to the presidency under apparently brighter 
auspices and with a larger measure of good-will from the American 
public than Franklin Pierce. The general impression was that with 
General Pierce s inauguration an era of peace had been ushered in, 
and that the new President would be the last to disturb it. In his 
letter of acceptance, Mr. Pierce had pledged himself to abide by the 
compromise measures ; in his inaugural address on March 4, 1853, he 
reaffirmed these pledges, and in his first message to Congress, De 
cember 5, 1853, he reverted to his promise, and speaking of the re 
pose the nation enjoyed, declared that it should suffer no shock from 
any act of his, if he had the power to avert it. These words natu 
rally created greater confidence in President Pierce, and greater inter 
est in him personally. He seemed to fill the public ideal in some 
respects as to what the President of a young nation should be. He 
was the youngest chief magistrate the country had yet chosen, and 
he was brilliant, eloquent, magnetic, handsome, and democratic. He 
seemed to be the personification of Young America, and even when 
the blackest pages of his administration were being written, Mr. 
Pierce maintained a strong popularity among those who knew him 
and fell under the charm of his personality. 

But with all his gifts, and in spite of his opportunities, Franklin 
Pierce was the greatest failure and disappointment in the presidency 
the country had experienced. Yet he was President nearly a year 
before his weak nature was fully understood. This was a year, though, 
of comparative calm. Mr. Hamlin became well acquainted with Gen 
eral Pierce, and at first liked him. He was slow to change his opin 
ion of the President. That was his nature. Then again it is to be 
said that President Pierce took great pains to make himself agreeable 
to Mr. Hamlin in order to win his support and friendship. But this 
is a story for another page. While Mr. Hamlin gave President Pierce 
his friendship, it is certain that he, in common with the Democrats 
of his school, regretted to find Pierce surrounded by a cabinet of the 
strongest pro-slavery sympathies, and also that the President was still 
inclined to pursue John P. Hale with oldtime vindictiveness. Yet 
the anti-Calhoun wing were fair to the young President and gave him 


full credit for sincerity in professing a desire to preserve peace ^on the 
slavery question. 

Franklin Pierce s betrayal of his solemnly plighted words was due to 
his pliant, fickle nature and environments. He was dazzled by the 
pomp and splendor of his great office, and received the tributes paid 
to him as due him as an individual. He seems to have had a fatuous 
idea of his power, for he allowed himself to be carried into scanda 
lous convivial excesses. He soon learned to listen only to the voice 
of the sycophant, who spoke the truth to him. Mr. Pierce easily fell 
into the hands of those who wanted to use him. They sang his 
praises and painted the possibilities of his reelection with consum 
mate art. Always a strong partisan, Mr. Pierce was soon inflated 
with inordinate ambition, and lent himself to the plans of his unscru 
pulous advisers. He saw only one side, and in the end gave the slave 
oligarchy all that a President could. Yet he had strong men in his 
Cabinet, who advised against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. 
One was Mr. Marcy, the secretary of state, and he had always been 
a Hunker. Another conservative member was James Guthrie, of 
Kentucky, the secretary of the treasury, who was a true Union man, 
and whose ability and upright character were conceded and recog 
nized by all who knew him. Robert McClelland, of Michigan, the 
secretary of the interior, was one of the few Democrats in the House 
who supported the Wilmot Proviso, and James Campbell, of Pennsyl 
vania, the postmaster-general, was another highly respected member. 
But the men who eventually were closest to Mr. Pierce were Jefferson 
Davis, secretary of war, and Caleb Cushing, of Massachusetts, the 
attorney-general. Davis was the deus ex machina of the ill-fated 
Pierce administration, and Cushing its tool. 

But this was the man who was as yet behind the scenes, and it 
was not until the machinery of the slavery propagandists was set in 
motion that he was placed on the stage of action in the light of pub 
licity. To carry the simile further, it must be said that the plot to 
break down the Missouri Compromise unfolded like a Sardou drama. 
The first schemes of the conspirators that were presented in Con 
gress were not understood in their actual purpose. It was not until 
the plot had been fully developed in debate that the full purport was 
grasped. Even to this day all the details of this conspiracy in its 
inception, the concoction of the secret bargain between Pierce and 
the Calhoun Democracy before his nomination, the development of 
the plan of action from day to day, and its termination in the whole 
sale purchase of Northern senators and representatives by patronage, 
will never be learned. But it is enough for this narrative to say that 
the chief odium of this act rests equally on the shoulders of Franklin 
Pierce and Stephen A. Douglas. 


It has been well said that Pierce and Douglas ran a race for the 
presidency. This is a terse description of their conduct and an expla 
nation of their motives for doing the work of the slave oligarchy. 
With Pierce in the presidency, and Douglas chairman of the Senate 
Committee on Territories, the slave power knew that it had two men 
who would do its bidding in return for the great reward it promised, 
the presidency. What the slave party wanted was the abrogation of 
the Missouri Compromise, that it might seize more territory for slave- 
dom. The most important result of the Mexican war was the addi 
tion of a large free State to the Union, California. This was the 
irony of fate. The free States now not only exceeded the slave 
States in number, population, territory, and wealth, but promised in 
the near future to exercise the political power of government. The 
slave party laid longing eyes on the territory that now comprises the 
States of Kansas and Nebraska, and, to quote Mr. Hamlin, the plot 
of "infinite mischief " was conceived. 

In the waning hours of the Fillmore administration a bill was intro 
duced in the Senate to organize a government in Nebraska. Senator 
Douglas reported it, but it was killed by the votes of the pro-slavery 
senators under different pleas. This did not attract much attention, 
and the matter did not come up again until Congress met for the 
first time under Mr. Pierce s administration, December, 1853. It was 
afterwards recalled that the first bill Mr. Douglas presented recog 
nized the Missouri Compromise ; it was also remembered that in 
1850 Douglas said in a speech to his Illinois constituents, "I am 
prepared to stand or fall by our American Union, clinging with the 
tenacity of life to all its glorious memories of the past ; . . . and 
among the memories of the past I pronounce the Missouri Compro 
mise of 1820 to be one." After the beginning of the Pierce adminis 
tration Douglas experienced a change of mind : he resolved that the 
Missouri Compromise should in fact be a memory of the past. 

There was quick work. On January 4, 1854, Senator Douglas 
reported the Nebraska bill again, with the significant declaration that 
the question of slavery, according to the compromises of 1850, should 
be left to the people of the territories to decide. This declaration 
was untrue, but it was a step towards the new ground on which Mr. 
Douglas meant to plant himself. On January 16, Archibald Dixon, 
who by a strange fate had succeeded Henry Clay, the peacemaker, 
as a senator from Kentucky, moved that the bill be made a special 
order for the following Monday, giving notice of his intention to 
move that "the Missouri Compromise be repealed, and that the citi 
zens of the several States be at liberty to take and hold their slaves 
within any of the territories." Mr. Dixon added that on "this ques 
tion of slavery I know no Whig party, no Democratic party. I am a 


pro-slavery man, and represent pro-slavery constituents. I intend to 
promote slavery interests as far as I can. This bill, if adopted, will 
carry out these principles." 

Dixon s declaration was at first regarded as the expression of 
individuals rather than of a party, but events rapidly dissipated this 
mistaken idea. Senator Dixon s proposition to repeal the honored 
landmark of 1820 was the logical outcome of Calhoun s theories and 
teachings. When Mr. Dixon said that on the question of slavery he 
knew no Whig party, no Democratic party, he spoke for the vast 
majority of the people south of the Mason and Dixon line. In the 
great Democratic landslide of the presidential election many Southern 
Whigs had renounced their allegiance to their party and taken their 
place in the Calhoun wing of the Democracy. Mr. Dixon was simply 
stating the situation, but the facts were a revelation to the slow North. 
Douglas recognized the state of affairs, and took advantage of it in 
a characteristic manner. He had no scruples ; success was his stand 
ard ; the presidency his aim. He had no sincerity ; politics was to 
him a game, and slavery at this juncture was the football that was 
being kicked about. The South was the master, and he hastened to 
curry its favor. He made his greatest bid for the presidency on Janu 
ary 23, when he reported his territorial bill in its perfected form. 
This provided for the division of the territory in question into two 
parts, to be known as Kansas and Nebraska, with the declaration that 
the Missouri Compromise was null and void, and suspended by the 
compromise measures of 1850. 

Mr. Douglas spent a part of the preceding Saturday and Sunday 
with President Pierce in consultation over the Kansas-Nebraska bill, 
and together they developed the measure into the shape in which it 
was presented in the Senate. There was sharp fencing between 
them ; each was afraid that the other would get ahead of him in the 
race both were making for Southern favor. More details will be pre 
sented in another place ; it is enough to state the brief facts now. It 
would appear that President Pierce was doubtful about the step he 
was taking ; he urged Mr. Douglas to consult with Secretary Marcy. 
It happened that Mr. Marcy was not at home when Douglas called, 
and therefore did not probably know that the conspiracy had been 
planned out until it was too late to arrest it. When Fenton, of New 
York, saw Mr. Marcy he indicated by his dejected manner and brief 
speech that he believed a terrible mistake had been made, and that 
nothing could be done to prevent it. This all happened while Con 
gress was considering the Nebraska bill. The anti-slavery members 
considered that a bad measure; but they little dreamed that while 
they were preparing to resist it, the President of the United States 
and a great leader of the Democracy were plotting to launch a thun 
derbolt out of the clear sky, as it were. 


The repeal of the Missouri Compromise was accomplished partially 
through the unscrupulous use of patronage by the administration. 
The men who were instrumental in forcing this corrupt job through 
Congress believed that " every man has his price." If they applied 
their false measure to honest men, it was their own mistake. They 
certainly made a mistake in the case of Senator Hamlin, and their 
efforts to approach him reacted on them. The plan of influencing 
Mr. Hamlin to give his support to the Douglas bill was a deep-laid 
scheme, and was probably the counterpart of others that succeeded 
with several Northern senators and representatives. President Pierce 
was directly connected with this plot, and was probably the author. 
It is referred to now because it was undoubtedly conceived before the 
Douglas bill was presented in the Senate, before Mr. Hamlin even 
suspected the deviltry Mr. Pierce was engaged in behind the scenes. 
There is direct evidence of President Pierce s part in this job and 
moral evidence that he tried to take advantage of the condition of 
affairs in Maine to force Mr. Hamlin into line with the miserable crea 
tures who betrayed their States in this disgraceful affair. It was a 
thumbscrew business. 

There was a changed condition of affairs in Maine, and Mr. Ham- 
lin s oldtime enemies, the pro-slavery Democrats, were the cause of 
it. They had failed to rule, and now they were trying to ruin the 
Democratic party in their State. They bolted Governor Hubbard in 
the fall of 1851, when he was a candidate for reelection, because he 
was instrumental in procuring the enactment of the famous Maine 
Prohibitory Liquor Law. It was said that the Hunkers wanted " free 
rum as well as free slave trade." They succeeded in preventing an 
election by the people, and when the legislature was called onto act, 
the Hunkers combined with the Whigs, and elected William G. Crosby 
governor over Dr. Hubbard, and although the latter had a large plural 
ity in the total number of votes thrown by the people. The Hunkers 
hoped that they could effect a coalition with the Whigs whereby they 
could elect one of their own men to the Senate to succeed Mr. Brad 
bury in 1853. They were ready to do business with Franklin Pierce. 
This was the situation in Maine when the Missouri plot began to 
develop at Washington. 

Mr. Hamlin seems to have had some suspicions at this juncture 
that President Pierce was not sincere ; but he was disposed to be just 
and generous. His letter to Mr. Haines is good evidence of this. 
He wrote, among other things : 

"The President is kind and cordial, but I think I can see a fear in his 
mind that he may yield too much to me ; in other words, while he is dis 
posed to give me his confidence, he is still induced, perhaps insensibly, to 
withhold much of it in consequence of the continued assaults on me by a 


class of men in Maine. ... I mean that the President shall understand 
that I am entitled to his confidence. He has not treated me right, but no 
matter. It is our administration, and I say, let us give it a generous sup 
port. We have brought it into power, let us take care of it. It is too 
small business for a man to allow his little disappointments to control his 
public action. I fear we have too many who do so." 

This was December 16, about the time when it is definitely known 
that President Pierce and Senator Douglas were beginning to consult 
over the scheme to abrogate the Missouri Compromise. Mr. Hamlin 
quickly learned why the President was listening to the Hunkers of 
Maine. On January 23, 1854, Douglas took Congress by surprise by 
presenting his bill that proposed the repeal of the Missouri Com 
promise. The anti-slavery senators had had no intimation of what 
was coming when Douglas took the floor. They were simply aghast 
when they heard his proposition. Mr. Hamlin could hardly believe 
the evidence of his senses. Repeal the Missouri Compromise ! What 
next ? Would the Calhoun party lay hands on the Constitution it 
self ? The anti-slavery men were sickened and angered ; the pro- 
slavery men were jubilant. Congress was at once in a roar of angry 
debate. The excitement over the Wilmot Proviso was slight in 
comparison with that which now agitated the country. The North s 
amazement turned to indignation, and a storm of wrath arose that 
was a precursor of the fury which was to burst forth only six years 
later when the government was assaulted. 

When Douglas had finished his memorable speech introducing his 
bill and urging its adoption on the ground that it would vindicate the 
principle of "non-intervention," and allow the people of the territo 
ries to decide for themselves on the question of slavery, Mr. Hamlin 
at once sought opportunity to speak with him. He said : - 

"Douglas, your bill is a gross moral wrong. In my judgment it 
would be a bad party measure. It is vicious in principle, and, if en 
acted, will produce infinite mischief. I shall oppose it. That is all I 
have to say." l 

Men who were associated with Mr. Hamlin, and were familiar with 
his record of consistent opposition to the extension of slavery, knew 
that he meant precisely what he said. None at Washington but the 
blind President and his miserable tools supposed for a moment that 
Mr. Hamlin would support the Douglas bill. Douglas knew that he 
would oppose it, and, suave politician as he was, accepted Mr. Ham- 
lin s announcement good-naturedly, and said no more at that time. 
The exciting debate then opened, but Mr. Hamlin, having stated his 
position authoritatively, turned to other affairs for the present. 

1 Mr. Hamlin characterized the Douglas bill in similar terms in a letter which 
was published at this time in the Boston Commonwealth. 


Having announced in public his intention of opposing the Douglas 
bill, Mr. Hamlin thought that he had said enough. The proposition 
to repeal the time-honored bulwark between freedom and slavery was 
an act of unparalleled perfidy. His position was clearly understood. 
Two dramatic incidents that happened later reflect Mr. Hamlin s 
feelings. The debate was to him words, words, and nothing but 
words. His attitude was one of cold contempt towards this conspir 
acy against national and party honor. Silence best expressed his 
feelings. The words of the Roman are recalled : " I have spoken." 
Then, again, there was work to be done. Mr. Hamlin s laborious 
duties as chairman of the Committee on Commerce, as well as the 
peculiar situation in Maine, now claimed his attention. 

At this juncture, the State was in a political ferment, and the out 
come was in the dark. It is easy now to see that the anti-slavery 
elements were then coalescing to form the Republican party. This 
process was going on throughout the North, and Maine, then as now, 
was always among the first States in the Union to feel and register 
a moral uprising. At the South the pro-slavery men were uniting. 
While conditions at the North were in a state of flux, and far-sighted 
men realized that national questions would sooner or later readjust 
the American people in new political relations, the anti-slavery Demo 
crats of the Pine Tree State gave their attention to the pressing need 
of the hour, which was to prevent the Hunkers from electing one of 
their own men to the Senate. Mr. Hamlin feared this, although it 
was a remote contingency. The Hunkers and the Whigs had com 
bined to defeat him ; they had also combined to elect Mr. Crosby 
governor. Some of the Whig leaders had persistently misrepresented 
Mr. Hamlin s position on the Texas question. He was not disposed 
to trust them. What bargain was to be made between the Whigs and 
the Hunkers, to reward the latter for electing Mr. Crosby ? Nathan 
Clifford and ex-Governor Dana were active candidates for the Senate 
to succeed Mr. Bradbury. 

Mr. Hamlin accordingly joined with the anti-slavery Democracy in 
an effort to control the party in 1853. It is interesting to note the 
kind of a man he favored as his colleague in this crisis. This was 
William P. Haines, of Biddeford, as has been intimated before. From 
1850 to the winter of 1854, Mr. Hamlin strove to induce Mr. Haines 
to become a candidate for the Senate. In that time Mr. Haines had 
grown into a leader of recognized ability, judgment, and character. 
He was entirely in sympathy with Mr. Hamlin on the slavery issue, 
he was also a strong party man ; in fact, he never left the Democracy. 
He was fine-looking ; he had an attractive personality. While Mr. 
Haines was active in politics, he never sought office. In short, he 
was one of those strong, upright, unselfish men, who dominate the 


inner circles of parties and seek to direct their party in the right 
course. Mr. Haines was also a scholar of large attainments. A 
graduate of Dartmouth, he was for many years one of the leading 
trustees of that institution. His taste inclined him to his home and 
books. The following extract from a letter that Mr. Haines wrote 
Mr. Hamlin, in July, 1854, commending his course in the Senate, 
gives an idea of the man and his relations with Mr. Hamlin : 

" I have very happy reflections when I call to mind how worthily our 
friend Hamlin fulfills all his friends predicted when he was elected to the 
Senate. In fact, my dear friend, you have demonstrated how well a man 
may stand even at Washington, who will respect himself and represent truly 
the will of a Northern constituency. I thank God for this ! But enough 
May God bless you, and return you in safety to the beloved family circle." 

Mr. Hamlin felt that Mr. Haines had the qualities and peculiar 
party qualifications which would rally the Democracy around him. He 
had few enemies ; even the Hunkers thought well of him. But Mr. 
Haines withstood all pressure, and the Democracy eventually nomi 
nated Lot M. Morrill, who had already achieved an honorable status 
in his party as an anti-slavery man and clear-headed parliamentarian. 
Again there was no election for governor by the people, although the 
Democrats controlled the legislature. The situation had too many 
complications to be described in detail, but a few phrases and results 
may be presented to illustrate the peculiarities of politics. The year 
before, the Hunkers, it will be remembered, bolted Governor Hubbard, 
and by combining with the Whigs made Mr. Crosby governor. This 
time a group of anti-slavery Democrats 1 bolted their party, and, join 
ing with the Whigs in the legislature, reflected Mr. Crosby and chose 
William Pitt Fessenden United States senator, although he was a 
Whig. This bolt was no aspersion on Mr. Morrill s principles. He 
was defeated by a curious accident of politics. Mr. Hamlin cordially 
supported Mr. Morrill, and regretted his defeat. The incident has 
been presented only to show that Mr. Hamlin stuck to his party in 
its hour of need, and exerted himself to strengthen the anti-slavery 
party in the Senate. He believed that the election of a good, sound, 
anti-slavery Democrat to the Senate, such as Mr. Morrill, in the 
midst of the struggle over the Douglas bill, would be a rebuke to the 
Democratic leaders who were plotting to betray their party. He went 
to Maine several times before and during the contest at Augusta, to 
help Morrill. This is one reason why he did not speak during the 
debate. He was looking for votes. One more Democratic vote 
against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise would have been worth 
tomes of speech to him. 

1 These were Know-Nothing men. That party had just begun its brief career 
in Maine. 


But however unkind fate seemed to be to the anti-slavery Demo 
cracy of Maine, Fessenden s election proved opportune. He was the 
leader of the Whigs in the legislature and a member of the House 
when chosen to the Senate. In shifting his scene of action he re 
mained a leader. When Fessenden delivered his maiden speech in 
the Senate, against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, he 
stepped into the front ranks of the debaters in Congress. To quote 
another writer : " The friends of freedom knew that a new champion 
had arrived." This was the beginning of a career that reflects lustre 
and honor on the man and his State. Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Fessen 
den did not maintain close relationship at first ; each continued for 
a few years to act nominally with his old party, but eventually they 
cooperated in forming the Republican party, in which they remained 
as leaders to the end of their lives. 

When the debate over the Douglas bill in the Senate began to 
near its close, there were two kinds of Northern Democrats who gave 
unmistakable evidence of their intention to support Douglas. One 
was the kind which worshiped the god of party action. The other 
was the venial sort. General Cass, of Michigan, represented the 
former. On the adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, he declared 
that his doctrine of " squatter sovereignty " was vindicated. Another 
was John Pettit, of Indiana. He once said, in defending the extension 
of slavery, that the Declaration of Independence was a self-evident 
lie. A third was Moses Norris, of New Hampshire. Once he up 
braided Ben Wade for opposing the Fugitive Slave Law. Wade coolly 
inquired of Norris whether he would help catch a "nigger " if sum 
moned to do so by an officer of the law. Norris replied in some con 
fusion that he would. Wade turned to Archibald Dixon, and asked 
him the same question. " No ; I would be damned if I would," was 
the frank reply. "Then," rejoined Wade, "I don t see why you 
Southern gentlemen should catch niggers, when you can find North 
ern men to do your dirty work for you." 

The other kind of men who betrayed their constituency were soon 
forgotten, though the memory of their deed lived long after them, 
This narrative is concerned only with the chief figures in the mer 
cenary job that carried the Douglas bill through to success. President 
Pierce employed the vast patronage at his disposal to force the repeal 
of the Missouri Compromise. The following extract from an editorial 
that appeared in the "New York Evening Post," at this period, gives 
a good idea of the situation as it was revealed to the anti-slavery press 
by their friends in Congress : " All the methods of influence and in 
timidation which organization, numbers, and patronage can supply are 
used without stint at the seat of government to silence those who dis 
approve of the bill, and engage the wavering to give it support. Those 


who have visited Washington speak of a leaden tyranny which is felt 
everywhere, weighing upon men s minds, coercing them into a sad, 
helpless acquiescence in the measure." But this told only a frac 
tional part of the story. 

When the Douglas bill was fairly under discussion, the " Little 
Giant " one day, in a burst of confidence, told Mr. Hamlin what he 
had suspected, that the bill was an administration measure. Mr. 
Douglas said at the same time that he purposed to get something in 
black and white from President Pierce to hold him fast to the bill. A 
day or two afterwards, Mr. Douglas showed Senator Hamlin the ori 
ginal draft of the final amendment to the Kansas-Nebraska bill. This 
contained the clause repealing the Missouri Compromise, and was 
written by Franklin Pierce himself. 1 Jefferson Davis, in his account 2 
of the interview between Mr. Douglas, President Pierce, and others 
regarding the fateful amendment, denied that the measure originated 
with the President or any member of the Cabinet. It would also 
appear from Senator Dixon s story that he took Douglas by surprise 
when he proposed to repeal the compromise of 1820. No doubt Mr. 
Davis and Mr. Dixon were correct. Senator Douglas was quick to 
catch the drift of things political. Probably he got an idea from Mr. 
Dixon s proposition as to what was the intention among the Southern 
senators, and acted on it. Then Mr. Pierce entered the race with 
Mr. Douglas. 

The responsibility for inventing the scheme of abrogating the Mis 
souri act need not be detailed ; the story deals with the results. It 
cannot be proved that there was a secret understanding established 
between General Pierce and the Southern leaders prior to his nomi 
nation for the presidency ; and it is not contended that there was an 
agreement, whereby Mr. Pierce pledged himself in terms to favor 
the annullment of the compromise of 1820; on the other hand, it is 
asserted that the leaders of the slave oligarchy, in their search for a 
Northern man with Southern principles, were satisfied by pledges of 
a convincing nature that Franklin Pierce was the one they wanted and 
would do what they desired. Three times he broke his solemn vow to 
the country to maintain the compromise measures of 1850. A man 
who would do that would hardly hesitate to make secret ante-conven 
tion promises to gain the great office of the presidency. The prompt 
ness with which Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, Thomas L. 
Clingman, Judah P. Benjamin, and other leading Whigs deserted their 
party to support Pierce for President ; the conferences at Concord 
between General Pierce and Southern leaders before his nomination, 
and his subsequent conduct as President, admit of no other conclusion 

1 Life of Lincoln, by Nicolay and Hay, vol. i. p. 350. 

2 Rise and Fall of the Confederacy ,\Q\> i. p. 28. 


than that Mr. Pierce bound himself to advance the interests of the 
slaveholding South. This was Senator Hamlin s belief. 

A few days before the Senate came to a vote on the Douglas bill, 
Mr. Hamlin received direct proof that the administration was resorting 
to venality to accomplish its object. This Vas one of the two occa 
sions during the quarter of a century Mr. Hamlin sat in the Senate 
when he was approached by corrupt men. The first who approached 
him was Caleb Gushing, attorney-general of the United States. He 
was a singular character. A man of great ability, yet without sin 
cerity, though his adroitness blinded many as to the real man. He 
threaded his way from one party to another on thin pretenses that 
entitled him to be called the political Blondin of his day. He had 
but one rival as a political prestidigitateur, and that was his associate, 
Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts. The two were once aptly 
characterized as "the Siamese Twins in chicanery and intrigue." 
Butler was the more mischievous of the two. His sophisms were 
not wholly confined to politics, but filled the court-room, and influ 
enced young men in forming their ideas of the standards and actions 
of life. These two men were active in arranging the terms of Pierce s 
nomination, whatever they were, and now Gushing came to Sen 
ator Hamlin to complete his record of jobbery. 

The interview took place in Mr. Hamlin s rooms at the St. Charles 
Hotel. Cushing in his adroit way presented the Kansas-Nebraska 
bill to Mr. Hamlin as an administrative measure, and urged him to 
support it as a party bill. Gradually he unfolded the obstacles that 
had already been overcome, and then when he came to those that 
remained, Cushing, in direct terms on behalf of the administration, 
offered Mr. Hamlin control of all the patronage in New England, or 
Maine, that he might ask for. This was to be his reward for voting 
in favor of the Douglas bill. Senator Hamlin cut the interview short 
by rising to his feet and saying, with considerable grimness of manner : 
"Gushing, I am forty-four years old. I have never done anything for 
which I am ashamed, and with God s help I don t propose to either." 
Mr. Cushing and his oily manner evaporated at once. 

But this was not all. The next day President Pierce resolved to 
sound Mr. Hamlin, and accordingly sent for him. Mr. Hamlin called 
at the White House, and was received in the President s private room. 
Mr. Pierce almost immediately came to the point. He asked Mr. 
Hamlin what the Senate was going to do about the Douglas bill. 
Mr. Hamlin was at once on his guard, and replied that there was ap 
parently not a majority in favor of it. 

" Well," continued the President, " suppose, now, that it should 
become a party measure, what would you do in regard to it ? " 

"As to that," said Hamlin quietly, "it is only necessary for 


me to say at this time that I do not regard the measure as a wise 

"Still," urged the President, "you could not stand up against 
your party; even Calhoun and White, of Tennessee, failed to do 

"And yet," said the Maine senator, "I shall, if necessary, take 
the responsibility of standing up against my party. I have my con 
stituents to serve, and they shall be served to the best of my ability, 
irrespective of any party. At the same time, let us understand each 
other. Did you ask me to come here expecting to get me to aid you 
in repealing the compromise ? " 

"Yes," replied Mr. Pierce, after a moment s consideration, "I did." 

"Then, sir, I must say to you," replied Mr. Hamlin earnestly, 
" that during the more than forty years I have lived, I have doubtless 
made many mistakes, but I have never lost self-respect. I would do 
so should I vote for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. It is 
needless to say more, and I shall bid you good-morning." l 

This was the last time Mr. Hamlin spoke with Franklin Pierce. 
When he withdrew from the White House on this occasion, he 
resolved never to return while Mr. Pierce was its occupant. It is also 
of interest to note that this was the last time Mr. Hamlin entered the 
White House as a member of the Democratic party. A few days 
later, March 4, at five o clock in the morning, after an exhausting 
struggle, just a year after Mr. Pierce had been installed in the presi 
dency, the Senate voted to repeal the Missouri Compromise. The 
iron pressure of the administration proved too much for certain sen 
ators, and the hopes Mr. Hamlin and others had were disappointed. 
With the two honorable exceptions of John Bell, of Tennessee, and 
Sam Houston, of Texas, the Southern senators were a unit, and, with 
their Northern allies, threw thirty-seven votes for the destruction of 
the nation s solemn pledges of 1820. Houston s protest was moving 
and eloquent, and the more patriotic since he knew that it would 
ruin whatever chances he had for the presidency. Bell s course was 
equally honorable, and his fame would have been enviable in all 
respects had he remained as consistent to the end as Houston did. 

Fourteen Northern senators voted for the abrogation of the Mis 
souri Compromise, and several more were not in their seats when the 
final roll was called. The fourteen were General Lewis Cass and 
Charles E. Stuart of Michigan ; Moses Norris and Jared W. Williams, 
of New Hampshire ; Augustus C. Dodge and George W. Jones, of 
Iowa ; Stephen A. Douglas and James Shields, of Illinois ; William 
M. Gwin and John R. Weller, of California; Richard Brodhead, of 
Pennsylvania ; John Pettit, of Indiana ; John R. Thompson, of New 
1 Carroll s Twelve Americans, p. 137. 


Jersey, and Isaac Toucey, of Connecticut. Jesse D. Bright, of Indi 
ana, and Robert Toombs, of Georgia, were both absent when the 
vote was taken, but sent word that they favored the passage of the 
Douglas bill. Philip Allen, of Rhode Island, was called away from 
Washington on account of sickness in hie family, but authorized his 
colleague to announce that he was opposed to the Douglas bill. Ed 
ward Everett, of Massachusetts, did not vote, on account of illness. 
He was opposed to the repeal. Pairs were not announced in the 
"Congressional Globe " at that time. 

In the following May, the House passed a bill to repeal the Missouri 
Compromise by a vote of 113 to 100. There were forty-four North 
ern men among the majority, and they were distributed among a 
dozen different States, as the list will show. They were : Moses Mac- 
donald, of Maine ; Harry Hibbard, of New Hampshire ; Collin M. 
Ingersoll, of Connecticut; Thomas W. Gumming, Francis B. Cutting, 
Peter Rowe, John J. Taylor, William M. Tweed, Hiram Walbridge, 
William A. Walker, Mike Walsh, Theodoric R. Westbrook, of New 
York ; Samuel Lilly and George Vail, of New Jersey ; Samuel A. 
Bridges, John L. Dawson, Thomas B. Florence, J. Glancey Jones, 
William H. Kurtz, John McNair, Asa Packer, John W. Robbins, 
Christian M. Straub, William W. Witte, and Hendrick B. Wright, 
of Pennsylvania ; David T. Disney, Frederick W. Green, Edson B. 
Olds, Wilson Shannon, of Ohio ; Samuel Clark and David Stuart, 
of Michigan ; James C. Allen, Willis Allen, and William A. Richard 
son, of Illinois ; Bernhart Henn, of Iowa ; John G. Davis, Norman 
Eddy, William H. English, 1 Thomas A. Hendricks, 2 James H. Lane, 
Cyrus L. Dunham, and Smith Miller, of Indiana ; Milton S. Latham 
and James A. McDougall, of California. 

There were nine Southern men in the House who resisted the cry 
of their section of the country for the wiping out of the Missouri 
Compromise. They were Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri ; Robert 
M. Bugg, William Cullom, Emerson Etheridge, and Nathaniel G. 
Taylor, of Tennessee ; Theodore G. Hunt, of Louisiana ; John S. 
Millson, of Virginia; Richard C. Puryea and Sion H. Rogers, of 
North Carolina. The rest of the one hundred were : Israel Wash- 
burn, Samuel P. Benson, Samuel Mayall, E. Wilder Farley, and T. J. 
D. Fuller, of Maine ; Nathaniel P. Banks, Samuel L. Crocker, Alex 
ander DeWitt, Edward Dickinson, J. Wiley Edmands, Thomas D. 
Eliot, John Z. Goodrich, Charles W. Upham, Samuel H. Walley, and 
Tappan Wentworth, of Massachusetts ; George W. Kittredge, George 
W. Morrison, of New Hampshire; James Meacham, Alvah Sabin, 
and Andrew Tracy, of Vermont ; Thomas Davis and Benjamin B. 

1 Democratic candidate for Vice-President in 1880. 

2 Elected Vice-President on the Democratic ticket in 1884. 


Thurston, of Rhode Island ; Nathan Belcher, James T. Pratt, and 
Origen S. Seymour, of Connecticut ; Henry Bennett, Davis Carpen 
ter, Gilbert Dean, Reuben E. Fenton, Thomas T. Flagler, George 
Hastings, Solomon G. Haven, Charles Hughes, Daniel T. Jones, Ca 
leb Lyon, Orasamus B. Matteson, Edwin B. Morgan, William Murray, 
Andrew Oliver, Jared V. Peck, Rufus W. Peckham, Bishop Perkins, 
Benjamin Pringle, Russell Sage, George A. Simmons, Gerrit Smith, 
and John Wheeler, of New York ; Alexander C. M. Pennington, 
Charles Skelton, and Nathan T. Stratton, of New Jersey ; Joseph R. 
Chandler, Carlton B. Curtis, John Dick, Augustus Drum, William 
Everhart, James Gamble, Galusha A. Grow, Isaac E. Hiester, Thomas 
H. Home, John McCulloch, Ner Middleswarth, David Ritchie, Samuel 
Russell, and Michael C. Trout, of Pennsylvania ; Edward Ball, Lewis 
D. Campbell, Alfred P. Edgerton, Andrew Ellison, Joshua R. Gid- 
dings, Aaron Harlan, Andrew J. Harlan, Scott Harrison, Harvey H. 
Johnson, William D. Lindsley, Matthias H. Nichols, Thomas Ritchey, 
William R. Sapp, Andrew Stuart, John L.Taylor, and Edward Wade, 
of Ohio ; David A. Noble and Hestor L. Stevens, of Michigan ; 
James Knox, Jesse O. Norton, Elihu B. Washburne, John Went- 
worth, and Richard Yates, of Illinois ; Andrew J. Harlan, Daniel 
Mace, and Samuel W. Parker, of Indiana; Benjamin C. Eastman and 
Daniel Wells, of Wisconsin. 

It is not easy to separate the sheep from the goats in this instance. 
It is probable that partisanship and patronage were equally respon 
sible for the disastrous step Congress took. Macdonald, of Maine, 
one of the three representatives who falsified the sentiment of New 
England, was instructed by an almost unanimous vote of the legisla 
ture of Maine to oppose the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. In 
an extreme speech in the House, Macdonald denied the right of the 
legislature to instruct him, and claimed that that body did not cor 
rectly represent the sentiment of the State. He had long been one 
of Mr. Hamlin s most active opponents. He was now retired from 
Congress for misrepresenting the people of his district. 

It was not clear what the slavery propagandists would do after they 
had succeeded in tearing down the bulwark of 1820. Their plan to 
colonize Kansas and Nebraska with slaveholders was carefully con 
cealed at first. It was apparent, of course, that their onslaught on 
the Missouri Compromise meant "infinite mischief." There was 
nothing to do but wait and see what the conspirators would do next. 
Shortly after the Missouri Compromise was repealed, and before the 
Calhoun party had given a hint of the programme its leaders were 
plotting, Senator Hamlin stated his position to Douglas, Hunter, and 
other pro-slavery leaders of his party with whom he had sustained 
personal and party relations. He said to them : 



"If the Democratic party indorses the doctrine of non-interven 
tion in its next presidential convention I will leave it." 

With this Mr. Hamlin rested his case, awaiting official action of the 
party two years later. He voted with the Democratic senators on 
questions affecting the true principles of Democracy, but always 
opposed them on the slavery issue, and also squarely antagonized 
President Pierce on any measure that he favored in the interests of 
the slave power. Mr. Hamlin, therefore, virtually held the position 
of a Republican during the rest of the Pierce administration ; but he 
was not the man to give up the ship while there was hope of keeping 
her afloat, and he did not officially sever his relations with the Demo 
cratic party until by its own act it was about to sink itself in the 
maelstrom in which the unhappy Pierce administration was wrecked. 

One more incident of a personal nature, that reflects the rotten 
and reckless character of this unhappy political period, remains to be 
recorded. When the representatives of Texas were trying to induce 
the government to assume the heavy debt of their State, there was 
more than one member of Congress who profited financially through 
unscrupulous lobbyists who offered them Texas bonds at a low figure. 
One prominent Democrat, who was identified with the scheme to 
bribe Kansas to adopt a pro-slavery constitution by offering her land, 
and who was afterwards an unsuccessful candidate for Vice-President, 
laid the basis for his private fortune by buying up Texas scrip at this 
time. A certain senator, whose name Mr. Hamlin would not divulge 
out of consideration for his family, approached him at this time, and 
made him the only corrupt offer of money that was ever made to him 
in all his career. Mr. Hamlin had only a speaking acquaintance with 
this senator, and he was angered when the latter said to him in a 
mysterious way, " Senator, I know where Texas bonds can be obtained 
for fifty cents on the dollar." 

" Indeed," replied Mr. Hamlin with a sharp look that was intended 
to preclude any suggestion of a dishonorable nature. 

The senator, not understanding, proceeded eagerly, " Yes ; I know 
where they can be bought for twenty-five cents on the dollar. What 
do you say ? " 

" I have this to say," replied Senator Hamlin, turning on the lobby 
ist, " I am forty-four years old to-day. I may have made mistakes, 
but I have never done anything of which I am ashamed, and with 
God s help I never will. Damn you and damn your bonds ! " 



THE Republican party was born out of conditions that were created 
chiefly during the decade of slavery propagandism, which began with 
the annexation of Texas and closed with the tearing down of the 
barrier of 1820. With the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the 
North found itself menaced by an aggressive sectional party, which 
now proposed to plant an institution among the Northern people 
that they loathed, and which their forefathers had expelled from 
their soil. There was a general feeling throughout the North that a 
new party should be formed to prevent the people thereof from being 
despoiled of their natural and constitutional rights. A series of 
conventions were held in Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and 
Wisconsin, in the summer of 1854, and action was formally taken in 
the name of the Republican party. Yet this illustrious organization 
did not fairly spring into existence until two years later. Following 
the abrogation of the Missouri Compromise, the vast majority of anti- 
slavery men waited and watched for the next move of the enemy. 
This placed the responsibility for the crisis of 1 860 on the slave power. 
When it endeavored to force slavery into Kansas, the anti-slavery ele 
ments coalesced, and the Republican party stood forth for its first 
great battle, the presidential campaign of 1856. 

The common interests and sympathies of the anti-slavery people 
contributed to draw men of the old parties together in practical rela 
tions before great events cemented the opponents of slavery into a 
compact political party. An interesting and picturesque phase of life 
at Washington, at this period, may be presented in evidence of this. 
For more than ten years, the centre of the anti-slavery congressmen 
and other well known opponents of the peculiar institution was the 
home of Dr. Gamaliel Bailey, the editor of the " National Era." Dr. 
Bailey was a man of large culture, sound political judgment, and in 
domitable courage. He was also a delightful host, and his companion 
ship was sought and enjoyed by statesmen, journalists, writers, scien 
tists, and other people of distinction. His home would have been 
noted as a brilliant, intellectual centre, even if this phase of the life 


there had not been overtopped by the distinct anti-slavery character 
of the gatherings at his house. It was aptly characterized as " an 
American salon," by Grace Greenwood, 1 in an interesting reminis 
cence of the people and scenes she saw at Dr. Bailey s. 

Dr. Bailey began publishing the " National Era" in 1847, the vear 
Mr. Hamlin closed his second term in the House, and their acquaint 
ance probably began shortly after Mr. Hamlin entered the Senate. 
When the compromise measures were before Congress, Mr. Hamlin 
was one of the regular frequenters of Dr. Bailey s house. He was 
not as radical as the more outspoken people who gathered there ; he 
was more cautious and alive to the practical difficulties that beset the 
opponents of slavery. But he was in sympathy with the animating 
spirit of the Bailey gatherings that drew anti-slavery people together 
and enabled them to take counsel against the enemy. The Saturday 
night receptions at the Baileys were brilliant affairs. Among the 
prominent men who figured at these gatherings were Seward, Sum- 
ner, Hale, Chase, Corwin, Giddings, Wilmot, Preston King, Robert 
Rantoul, Henry Wilson, George W. Julian, Justice McLean, John G. 
Palfrey, Horace Mann, Moncure D. Con way, and many others whom 
Mr. Hamlin well knew and esteemed. In her sketch of these scenes, 
Grace Greenwood describes Mr. Hamlin as a " strong, active man, 
with a constitutional objection to overcoats and other compromise 
measures, fond of walking, and not averse to dancing." 

Another interesting chronicler of these times was George W. 
Julian, whose name was associated with that of John P. Hale, on the 
Free-Soil presidential ticket of 1852. At this time he was coming 
into national prominence as one of the bravest and promptest anti- 
slavery men in Congress. In his "Political Recollections," 2 Mr. 
Julian records : " It was not strange, therefore, that the little band of 
Free-Soilers in this Congress (the thirty-eighth) encountered popular 
obloquy and social outlawry at the capital. Their position was offen 
sive, because it rebuked the ruling influences of the times, and sum 
moned the real manhood of the country to its rescue. They were 
treated as pestilent fanatics because they bravely held up the idea of 
the republic, and sought to make it real. But they pressed forward 
along the path of their aspirations. They found a solace for their 
social ostracism in the delightful gatherings which assembled weekly 
at the residence of Dr. Bailey, where they met philanthropists, reform 
ers, and literary notables. They had the courage of their opinions, 
and genuine satisfaction which accompanies manliness of character ; 
and they lived to see their principles vindicated." 

In a private letter, 3 Mr. Julian added : " I knew Mr. Hamlin well 

1 The Cosmopolitan, February, 1890. 2 Page 112. 

8 January 27, 1897, to the author. 


during the latter part of his life, and always admired him. I knew 
him also in his prime, having first met him in the Congress of 1849- 
50. He was then a commanding figure in the Senate, perfectly 
erect, of quick step, bright, sparkling eyes, with a look of vigor and 
alertness about him. He was a Democrat, but not of the pro-slavery 
type, and he used to join the Free-Soilers of the Senate and House 
in social gatherings at Dr. Bailey s house. His geniality was charm 
ing, and I recall him vividly and most pleasantly as he appeared to 
me more than forty-seven years ago." 

The importance Mr. Hamlin attached to the gatherings at Dr. 
Bailey s house may be learned from the following letter Grace Green 
wood incorporated in her reminiscences of " An American Salon," 

" Our first Republican Vice- President, whose name is linked for all 
time with that of Abraham Lincoln, writes to me from his home in 
Bangor : 

" I have neither forgotten you nor the cosy, pleasant meetings at 
Dr. Bailey s to which you refer. Those meetings were of very great 
value to the anti-slavery cause. They were made up of persons who 
believed in the anti-slavery principles which they professed and advo 
cated. I can think of no instrumentality which did so good a service 
to our cause. The meetings were composed in great part of men and 
women of both Whig and Democratic affiliations, but who were at 
heart anti-slavery ; and they served to unite and strengthen all who 
participated in them, and to extend their sphere of useful activity. 
They cheered the resolute and determined in opinion the timid. 

" Alas ! how few are now left who know the ordeal vfhich we all 
entertaining anti-slavery sentiments had to pass through ! I then 
believed that God in his goodness would wipe out the " sum of all 
villainies," but I never dreamed that it would come, as it has come, 
in my day. Yours truly, 

"<H. HAMLIN." 

There is, unfortunately, no further record of Senator Hamlin s con 
nection with this interesting episode in the consolidation of the anti- 
slavery people. His constant presence at the receptions and confer 
ences at Dr. Bailey s home is evidence that he was active in shaping 
and advising the opposition to the slave power. But he said little to 
his friends of the part he played ; that was his nature. Mr. Hamlin s 
energies in fighting the slave oligarchy were probably employed to a 
larger extent at these informal gatherings than anywhere else at 
this time. After his rupture with President Pierce and the leaders 
of the Democracy, Mr. Hamlin was placed in a peculiar position. In 
serving notice on Douglas, Hunter, and other leaders of his party 
that he would leave them should they enforce the doctrine of non- 


intervention, Senator Hamlin s duty was to maintain a waiting atti 
tude and see what his party would do. He bided his time well, and 
his silence in the Senate during the last two years of the Pierce ad 
ministration emphasized his short but memorable repudiation of the 
Democracy when it indorsed the repeal of *he Missouri Compromise 
and nominated James Buchanan for President. His position was, 
therefore, logical and justified. 

At the same time Mr. Hamlin was exceedingly busy with his la 
borious duties in the Senate. A careful examination of the " Con 
gressional Globe " shows that his work covered a wide scope. The 
nature may be indicated ; lack of space prohibits further mention. 
Among the subjects which Mr. Hamlin briefly discussed and in which 
he took an interest were the transportation of the United States 
mails in ocean steamers, features of the tariff, the construction of 
revenue cutters, river and harbor improvements, civil and diplomatic 
bills, the coast survey department, the establishment of collection dis 
tricts, pension and appropriation bills, the French spoliation fund, 1 
measures to extend the land bounty system, the regulation of fees, 
and also other topics that composed the business before the Senate. 
He also made some remarks on more important affairs, the Kan- 
sas-Topeka Convention, the suppression of the African slave trade, 
and the establishment of a telegraphic line to the Pacific coast. But 
the record has been sufficiently extended to show how absorbing 
Mr. Hamlin s duties were. There is not space to relate the details 
of any one of the measures mentioned in which he was interested, 
or to touch, on private bills, claims, and many other things of lesser 
importance. 2 It may be said that Mr. Hamlin was regarded by many 
of his colleagues and heads of departments under the government as 
the business man of the Senate. This will be referred to later ; the 
more picturesque incidents now claim attention. 

In the Senate there were echoes of the disturbance made by the 
Fugitive Slave Law during the latter part of the Pierce administra 
tion. Charles Sumner was now making himself felt. Several times 

1 Senator Hamlin gave much time and labor to obtain the passage of a bill re 
funding $5,000,000 to those whose property the French government had despoiled. 
President Pierce vetoed the bill. See chapter on Legislature. 

2 Mr. Hamlin was active in supporting the movement originated by Dorothea 
Lynde Dix to have the government appropriate 10,000,000 acres of land to pro 
vide for the indigent insane. President Pierce vetoed the bill. Miss Dix wrote 
Mr. Hamlin: "I cannot allow the period touching the passage of the land bill 
for the relief of the insane, by the Senate, to pass without adverting to my sense 
of the energy and ability with which you last year conducted this measure, and 
though not successful, all know that delay was the result of circumstances beyond 
your control. I shall, sir, always associate your name with the final success of 
this bill, and beg to be allowed to express my high appreciation of your worth 
as a statesman and my respect for you in your station as a citizen." 


he introduced bills, or tried to initiate measures, to repeal the Fugi 
tive Slave Law. In a preceding chapter reference was made to the 
first two attempts by Sumner. Mr. Hamlin supported him on each 
occasion. At another time, August 26, 1852, Mr. Hamlin voted 
against a proposition of Mr. Sumner s to amend a bill to abrogate 
the obnoxious statute. The incident should be alluded to because it 
has been made to serve the purposes of one of Mr. Hamlin s critics 
to misrepresent him. An illustration of this is found in Edward L. 
Pierce s " Life and Memoirs of Charles Sumner," vol. iii. p. 304. Mr. 
Pierce found fault because only three senators Hale, Chase, and 
Wade supported Sumner, and he censured those who opposed 
Sumner by placing their names in the " column of compromisers and 
disunionists," and saying that it " is difficult at this distance of time 
to comprehend the degradation of American politics." Mr. Hamlin, 
Hamilton Fish, John H. Clarke, of Rhode Island, Truman Smith, of 
Connecticut, and William Upham were among those who voted No. 
Their anti-slavery course needs no defense here. Mr. Hamlin was 
an anti-slavery leader in the House before Mr. Sumner was known 
outside of Massachusetts. He did not find it necessary to shape his 
course according to the desires of Mr. Sumner. On this occasion 
only three of the anti-slavery senators thought that it was the right 
day to bring up the question of the repeal of Fugitive Slave Law. 
Mr. Sumner s biographer adds that Seward and John Davis "dodged" 
the vote. But this is the way a certain type of Sumner s admirers 
had of judging public men ; that is, they measured them by their 
attitude towards Mr. Sumner. 

This incident, which happened in 1852, would be an anachronism 
in this chapter were it not presented to introduce another from the 
same biographer, which is of a more serious character. This time 
Mr. Hamlin was singled out, and the circumstances of the instance 
render the animus in both cases clear. On July 31, 1854, Mr Sum 
ner once again brought up his bill to repeal the Fugitive Slave Law. 
In his account of the vote, in his Life of Sumner, vol. iii. p. 393, 
Pierce observes : " Fessenden gave his vote for the repeal, while 
Hamlin remained discreetly silent." l The purpose of this was to 
persuade th e reader that Mr. Hamlin " dodged " the issue, and was 
in the Senate at the time. Now there was no excuse for this mis- 
statement. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there was a 
deliberate suppression of facts. To write of this episode the author 
of this charge against Mr. Hamlin necessarily had to refer to the 

1 The same biographer also misrepresented Mr. Hamlin s course on the annexa 
tion of Texas. On p. 99, vol. iii., he made it appear to the casual reader that 
Mr. Hamlin voted for the annexation of Texas as a slave State at the behest of 
the slave party. 


printed pages of the "Congressional Globe." Mr. Sumner 1 himself 
announced that Mr. Hamlin was absent, and had asked him to take 
charge of a bill for him, which he had consented to do. Mr. Sumner 
introduced the bill, and then took up his own measure. In the 
" Bangor Jeffersonian," of August I, 18^4, the explicit reason for 
Mr. Hamlin s absence from the Senate is found in the announcement 
that he had been summoned to his home in Hampden by serious ill 
ness in his family. 

There was anxiety about Mrs. Hamlin. She had fallen into a de 
cline in health, and Mr. Hamlin had been summoned home because 
she had developed symptons of a serious pulmonary trouble. In a 
short time the fatal disease that had seized her made such rapid pro 
gress that it was evident there was no hope of recovery. For a year 
Mrs. Hamlin lingered between life and death. It was a terrible 
ordeal for Mr. Hamlin, who was torn with grief over the condition 
of his beloved wife and anxiety over the political situation at Wash 
ington. It had been a perfect union. Mrs. Hamlin had been a de 
voted wife and mother, and there had been five children, but only 
three, Charles, Cyrus, and Sarah, then survived. The only sorrow 
Mr. and Mrs. Hamlin had known was the death of two sons in their 
infancy. One was their firstborn, who lost his life through a dis 
tressing accident. The friends of the family thought that this son 
was his father over again as a boy. He strongly resembled him in 
looks, spirit, and nature, and to the end of his life Mr. Hamlin could 
not reconcile himself to the loss of this promising boy. Mr. Hamlin 
devoted almost unceasing care to his wife during her last days, snatch 
ing a few days now and then to go to Washington during the session 
of Congress, when he thought he could leave his wife with safety. 

Mr. Hamlin s letters during this trying ordeal are touching and 
sacred. An allusion, however, may be made to one which was writ 
ten to A. M. Robinson, November 24, 1854. In this Mr. Hamlin 
wrote that he was with his wife all the time, and knew that his con 
stituents would sympathize with him and find no fault with his absence 
from Washington. He added that he should go to the capital when 
Congress organized in December, but should return to his wife. 
"That is my duty, and I shall do it," he said in closing. 

Mr. Hamlin s feelings of delicacy concerning his duties to his con 
stituents may be gathered from the following letter Preston King 
wrote him on January 6, 1855. It is evident that Mr. Hamlin con 
templated resigning his seat in the Senate. Mr. King wrote : 

" Yours of the first instant is received, and I most sincerely sympathize 
with you in the affliction that detains you at home. Be pleased to give my 
very kindest remembrances to Mrs. Hamlin. 
1 See Congressional Globe, No. 34, Part iii., p. 2015, ist Session, 3ist Congress. 


" You must not, under any circumstances whatever, resign your seat in 
the Senate. Your first duty, it is true, except in some extraordinary emer 
gency not likly to arise, is to remain where you are, with your wife. Your 
second duty is to your country, and, if need be, the last duty would be first. 
Hold the position to be most serviceable to your principles which the 
people of Maine have called you to and imposed upon you, and you will 
not regard it officious in me to say what I think, for what else should a 
man say ? 

" I had a letter from Wilmot the other day, the first in a long time. He 
mourns the loss of Benton, in the speech read for him by his colleague 
Oliver. Your letter expresses the apprehension which the condition of 
parties and the intrigues of slavery propagandism compel us all to feel. 
But the sheet anchor is confidence in the good sense and patriotism of the 
people. This cannot fail for with it the republic must stand or fall. 

" Seward will be reflected in this State. . . . There is a good degree of 
darkness about these days, but great confusion and convulsion of parties 
must precede and attend the downfall of slavery propagandism." 

Many other letters from Mr. Hamlin s constituents to the same 
effect could be quoted. This was a great comfort to him in his hour 
of trial. He retained his seat in the Senate, and devoted himself to 
his wife until she passed away, in April, 1855. 

The time of Mr. Hamlin s deliverance from the sin-laden Demo 
cracy was rapidly drawing near. He still stood pledged to his word 
to Douglas and Hunter that he would leave the party should it at 
tempt to enforce the doctrine of popular sovereignty after repealing 
the Missouri Compromise. There are none so blind as those who 
will not see. The wrath that the abrogation of the barrier of 1820 
produced among the Northern people was a warning that they would 
drop the usual political issues and resist the intrusion of slavery on 
their soil. But deceived by their victory, and the false representa 
tions of the so-called "dough-face" element, the leaders of the new 
South prepared to take advantage of their opportunity to make 
Kansas a slave State. No doubt they were spurred on by the con 
demnation the North had visited on the repeal of the Missouri Com 
promise, by wrenching the House from the control of the slave party 
in the election of 1854. The crowning triumph of the anti-slavery 
forces was the subsequent election of Nathaniel P. Banks, of Massa 
chusetts, speaker of the House over William Aiken, of South Caro 
lina, in February, 1855, after an unparalleled contest of two months. 
But the last dregs of bitterness for Mr. Pierce in this hour of humilia 
tion was his complete repudiation in his own State. The faithless 
senators and representatives of the Granite State were all retired, and 
John P. Hale and James Bell elected to the Senate, with a solid body 
of anti-slavery men in the House. 


President Pierce entered with zeal on the last stage of his desperate 
struggle for another term. It was claimed that he pursued a course 
towards Cuba and Great Britain in order to divert national attention 
from the outrages the slave party was committing in Kansas, and 
there were even loud insinuations that the administration would not 
be averse to a war with Spain. The United States had long had 
complicated relations with that country over Cuba, and the slave 
power desired to acquire the island now to extend its institution. 
Mr. Pierce directed Mr. Buchanan, John Y. Mason, and Pierre Soule, 
the United States ministers to England, France, and Spain, to meet 
at Ostend and take action with regard to Cuba. They issued the 
so-called manifesto, which was a bold declaration that if Spain would 
not sell Cuba to the United States that nation would be warranted in 
seizing the island to prevent it from being Africanized into a second 
San Domingo. This created a great sensation, but European powers 
quickly intervened, and there was an end to his scheme. Mr. Hamlin 
wrote A. M. Robinson on June 10, 1854: 

" I did fear that we would have a row with Spain, growing out of 
Cuban matters, but I think it will blow over now. It looks that 

The fertile Caleb Cushing employed his talents in seeking to stir 
up a blustering controversy with Great Britain over the efforts of 
certain officials of that nation to enlist men in this country for the 
Crimean war. Mr. Cushing pointed out, in an elaborate opinion to 
the English Foreign Office, that this was a violation of the neutrality 
treaty. During the civil war the English Foreign Office charged the 
United States government with enlisting men in Ireland, and at the 
same time politely returned Mr. Cushing s note to Secretary Seward. 
President Pierce demanded the recall of Mr. Crampton, the British 
minister at Washington. When it was refused, Mr. Pierce dismissed 
Mr. Crampton and the British consuls at New York, Philadelphia, 
and Cincinnati. Great Britain, having one war on hand, promptly 
acquiesced, and in the official correspondence admitted that Mr. 
Crampton s conduct was " notoriously at war with the rights of neu 
trality and national honor." Yet at the same time the English 
government transformed the man it thus castigated into Sir John 
Crampton, and promoted him to the Russian embassy, all of which 
showed that the British lion could box with one paw and pat with 
another, if need be, to disarm a warlike administration. 

Thus it was not permitted the pro-slavery party to raise a smoke of 
foreign complications in order that it might slink behind it, and accom 
plish its purpose in Kansas. The plot against Kansas soon stood out 
clear and bold. Mr. Pierce called a special election for the people of 
Kansas to choose a delegate to Congress. The struggle that followed 


is almost without parallel in the history of established government. 
Ruffians from Missouri swarmed into Kansas, armed with rifles and 
pistols. Riot and murder reigned. The pro-slavery mobs captured 
the ballot-boxes, and at the special election stuffed more ballots into 
the boxes than there were legal residents in the territory. President 
Pierce set the great machine at his command in motion to aid the cut 
throats who were trampling on the rights of freeborn men and women. 
Andrew H. Reeder, of Pennsylvania, whom he had appointed governor 
of the territory, refused to do his bidding. Mr. Reeder s removal 
from office by the President was a testimonial to his patriotism and 
integrity. But the men who fought for Kansas s freedom were not 
the kind of stuff to bow to this slave administration. They came from 
New England and other free States. They held an election, and 
chose Reeder as their delegate. Thus Congress was called on to act, 
and was embroiled in the hottest and fiercest fight that the slavery 
question had yet provoked. 

Mr. Hamlin resumed his seat in the Senate when the controversy 
over Kansas was coming to a white heat. The slave party had never 
been as bold and desperate as now. Though the doctrine of " popular 
sovereignty " had proved to be a vulgar swindle, and though it was a 
notorious fact that border ruffians from Missouri had brought civil 
war into Kansas, and were trampling on the rights of the legal resi 
dents of the territory, nevertheless this President and his supporters in 
Congress put on a brazen face and continued to abet the malefactors. 
Mr. Pierce made one of his last bids for a renomination when he de 
clared in a message to Congress that the responsibilities for the trou 
bles in Kansas rested on the shoulders of the anti-slavery settlers. 
But although Mr. Pierce had broken his sacred pledges, and dragged 
himself through the mud of politics at the behest of his masters, they 
denied him his coveted honor. Men who depend on a tool do not 
keep faith with him after he has served their purpose. Mr. Hamlin 
watched the Pierce farce. One of his comments is interesting. To 
A. M. Robinson he wrote on January 10, 1856 : 

" Pierce stands no chance for a renomination at all. He has been used, 
and is now to be thrown away, as we do a lemon after we have squeezed it. 
. . . He has not many more friends in the South than in the North." 

The next development in the conspiracy against Kansas was the 
establishment of a fraudulent legislature by the Missouri Border Ruf 
fians. They were incited by David R. Atchison, senator from their 
own State and once acting vice-president. They seized the ballot- 
boxes, intimidated legal voters, and cast twice as many votes as there 
were voters in the territory according to the census. The Free-Soil 
citizens established a government, held a constitutional convention, 


and sent a memorial to Congress petitioning for the right to organize 
Kansas into a State. The leaders of the slave party in the Senate 
were in such an intolerant frame of mind that they even proposed to 
refuse the petitioners the courtesy of printing this memorial. While 
this was being discussed on April 10, 1856? Mr. Hamlin made some 
brief, but vigorous remarks. A Washington correspondent of the 
"Bangor Jeffersonian " describes the incident as follows : 

" The debate was more acrimonious than at any time during the session. 
The Border Ruffians were chafed and soured by the lecture they had re 
ceived from Governor Seward, and were altogether in a highly inflammable 
state. In this condition of things Mr. Hamlin applied a spark to the pow 
der by quietly remarking that the proposition to refuse to print the memo 
rial of the free state legislature of Kansas could have its parallel only in 
the treatment of the petitions and remonstrances of the American colonies 
by the British Parliament under the administration of Lord North. Either 
what was said or the quarter from which it was said, or both combined, 
stirred the passions of the Southern senators to the bottom. Judge Butler 
was especially rampant. Mr. Hamlin was as cool and as unruffled as a 
summer morning, and I suspect enjoyed the scene. Others did if he did 

The temper of the slave party was now intolerant. Ruffians 
swarmed at the capital ; personal encounters were not infrequent ; 
Washington seemed to have caught the atmosphere of far-away Kan 
sas. This was the state of things that produced the crowning act of 
brutality, the murderous assault Preston Brooks, a representative 
from South Carolina, made on Charles Sumner. The fury this das 
tardly outrage aroused at the North stimulated the popularity of the 
anti-slavery cause. Sumner was struck down because he had told the 
truth about the " crime against Kansas." The unfortunate man who 
committed this act was the tool of more malignant men than he. To 
the maddened anti-slavery people Brooks s bludgeon was the incarna 
tion of the old gag-law. Mr. Hamlin was one of the Republican sen 
ators who met at Senator Seward s house and discussed the proper 
course to pursue. Several of the senators armed themselves ; many 
Republican senators carried revolvers. On May 28, 1856, six days 
after the attack on Sumner, Mr. Hamlin wrote Senator Fessenden, 
who had been called to Maine : 

"We are having rare times here, such as I have never seen. It is 
my candid opinion that some will be shot down before the session 
closes. All I have to say is, let it come. If we do not stand manfully 
and fearlessly to the work before us, we ought to be slaves" 

This letter throws a little light on the plans of the Republican 
senators. They unquestionably expected another outbreak, and were 
prepared for it. The impassioned utterances of Ben Wade, in de- 


nouncing the assault on Sumner, were undoubtedly known before 
hand to his Republican colleagues. " Live or die," said he, " I will 
vindicate the right and liberty of debate and freedom of discussion 
upon this floor as long as I live." This was understood, moreover, to 
be a reply to " Bob" Toombs, who had declared that he had witnessed 
the attack on Sumner and approved it. But Toombs did not chal 
lenge Wade, who was known to be a crack rifle shot. Brooks sent a 
challenge to Henry Wilson, who declined to accept on the grounds 
that he was opposed to the code. Anson Burlingame professed his 
willingness to fight Brooks in Canada, but the latter withdrew his 
challenge on the allegation that it would not be safe for him to pass 
through the North. Mr. Burlingame was another good shot. Brooks 
soon afterwards died of remorse, and there were no duels. 

The Democratic party held its presidential convention at Cincin 
nati on June 2, 1856. It formally indorsed the repeal of the Missouri 
Compromise, upheld the doctrine that Congress had no right to inter 
fere with slavery in the territories, rejected Pierce and Douglas, and 
nominated James Buchanan and John C. Breckinridge as its candi 
dates. Thus the Democracy by its own act acknowledged itself to 
be the aggressive pro-slavery party. Thus it accepted the doctrine 
of John C. Calhoun, that the national flag carried slavery wherever 
it floated. It was no longer the party of Jefferson and Jackson, which 
had dedicated itself to the noble work of preserving the liberty of 
the individual and sustaining the Constitution ; it was a machine, 
whose purpose it was to trample on the rights of a people, and to 
force them to receive slavery into their lives ; it would subvert the 
Constitution to do this, if necessary. The downfall of the once 
proud and noble party was as complete as the fall of a woman. The 
candidates it named possessed blameless private characters, but they 
were both heartily in accord with the doctrines of their party. 

Senator Hamlin had, it is unnecessary to say, anticipated the action 
of the Cincinnati convention. Although he had not yet formally 
withdrawn from the Democracy, he had regularly acted with the 
Republican senators, and was classed with them. The first expres 
sions of condemnation he uttered in regard to the proceedings- of the 
Cincinnati convention are contained in the following letter of June 6, 
to his trusted friend, Leander Valentine, of Westbrook : 

" Your letter breathes the right tone, and I concur fully in all you say. 
We were most woefully cheated in our President. He has not only falsi 
fied all his promises, but he has brought the country to the verge of ruin. 
All good men must take hold and save it. Tyranny rules in our territories ; 
ruffianism revels in Congress, riots in Washington. All is the result of 
the measures of this wicked administration. But these acts of crime will 


revolutionize and save the country. If the North will not unite now to 
vindicate their rights and constitutional freedom, they will not only deserve 
to be slaves, but they will be. The small minority in the Senate will stand 
manfully by their rights and the rights of the free white men. You may 
rely on that. If they did not do that, they would be worse than slaves. 

" You will see that the Cincinnati convention has indorsed all the ini 
quity of this administration. Now let the work begin. Kindle up the 
fires and roll on the ball. We will sweep the country, and save it from the 
storms that gather round it. I was quiet last year, but shall not be so this 
year. ... I will do all I can to whirl this corrupt administration from 
power, and to prevent its perpetuation in any other person of the same 
stamp (as Pierce). The old Democratic party is now only the party of 
slavery. It has no other issue ; that is the standard by which it measures 
everything and every man ! ! ! Beautiful Democracy ! ! ! I did not learn 
my principles, and shall not practice, in that school. 

" Freedom is crushed out in Kansas. There is no remedy but in a 
change of administration, and that we must have." 

Douglas, Hunter, and other pillars of the Democracy now watched 
Mr. Hamlin with great apprehension. They knew that he would 
redeem his word to them and formally withdraw from their party. 
There was active speculation among them as to the time and place 
Senator Hamlin would choose for severing his party ties. They could 
find out nothing from him. He was as courteous as ever, but silent 
as to his intentions. On June 12, or six days after the Cincinnati 
convention, Mr. Hamlin arose in the Senate, and immediately attracted 
its attention by saying : 

" Mr. President, I rise for a purpose purely personal, such as I 
have never before risen for in the Senate. I desire to explain some 
matters personal to myself and to my future course in public life." 

When the pro-slavery leaders heard this, they knew that Mr. 
Hamlin had decided that the time had come for him to speak out. 
Douglas, Hunter, and even Sam Houston and other conservative 
Democrats immediately left their seats and crowded around Mr. 
Hamlin s desk to "implore him to put off his speech." 

"Don t do it now," said Douglas ; "wait until to-morrow." 

"Yes, wait until to-morrow," urged Hunter. 

Their object was to gain time, in the hope that they might per 
suade Mr. Hamlin to choose another place than the United States 
Senate for his act of repudiation. They feared the moral effect of 
his course, and were anxious to anticipate his withdrawal from their 
party in order to discount it as much as possible. But Mr. Hamlin 
was well aware of their object ; he did not propose to lose the advan 
tage of his silence, and he replied firmly but courteously, " No, my 
mind is made up ; I shall speak it out now." 


In the mean time Wade, Hale, and several other Republican sen 
ators, who had an idea of what was coming, called out, " Go on, go on ! " 
Mr. Hamlin then spoke as follows, amidst breathless silence : 

" I ask the Senate to excuse me from further service as chairman 
of the Committee on Commerce. I do so, because I feel that my 
relations hereafter will be of such a character as to render it proper 
that I should no longer hold that position. I owe this act to the dom 
inant majority in the Senate. When I cease to harmonize with the 
majority, or tests are applied by that party with which I have acted, 
to which I cannot submit, I feel that I ought no longer to hold that 
responsible position. I propose to state briefly the reasons which 
have brought me to that conclusion. 

"During nine years of service in the Senate, I have preferred rather 
to be a working than a talking member, and so I have been almost a 
silent one. On the subjects which have so much agitated the country, 
senators know that I have rarely uttered a word. I love my country 
more than I love my party. I love my country above my love for any 
interest that can too deeply agitate or disturb its harmony. I saw, in 
all the exciting scenes and debates through which we have passed, no 
particular good that would result from my active intermingling in 
them. My heart has often been full, and the impulses of that heart 
have often been felt upon my lips, but I have repressed them there. 

" Sir, I hold that the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was a gross 
moral and political wrong, unequaled in the annals of the legislation 
of this country, and hardly equaled in the annals of any other free 
country. Still, sir, with a desire to promote harmony and concord and 
brotherly feeling, I was a quiet man under all the exciting debates 
which led to that fatal result. I believed it wrong then ; I can see 
that wrong lying broadcast all around us now. As a wrong I opposed 
that measure not indeed by my voice, but with consistent and steady 
and uniform votes. I so resisted it in obedience to the dictates of 
my own judgment. I did it also cheerfully, in compliance with the 
instructions of the legislature of Maine, which were passed by a 
vote almost unanimous. In the House of Representatives of Maine, 
consisting of 151 members, only six, I think, dissented; and in the 
Senate, consisting of 31 members, only one member non-concurred. 

"But the Missouri restriction was abrogated. The portentous evils 
that were predicted have followed, and are yet following, along in its 
train. It was done, sir, in violation of the pledges of that party with 
which I have always acted, and with which I have always voted. It 
was done in violation of solemn pledges of the President of the United 
States, made in his inaugural address. Still, sir, I was disposed to 
suffer the wrong, until I should see that no evil results were flowing 
from it. We were told by almost every senator who addressed us 


upon that occasion that no evil results would follow ; that no practical 
difference in the settlement of the country, and the character of the 
future State, would take place, whether the act were done or not. I 
have waited calmly and patiently to see the fulfillment of that predic 
tion ; and I am grieved, sir, to say now tht they have at least been 
mistaken in their predictions and promises. They all have signally 

"That senators might have voted for that measure under the belief 
then expressed, and the predictions to which I have alluded, I can 
well understand; but how senators can now defend that measure 
amid all its evils, which are overwhelming the land, if not threatening 
it with a conflagration, is what I do not comprehend. The whole of 
the disturbed state of the country has its rise in, and is attributable to, 
that act alone nothing else. It lies at the foundation of all our mis 
fortunes and commotions. There would have been no incursions by 
Missouri borderers into Kansas, either to establish slavery or control 
elections. There would have been no necessity, either, for others to 
have gone there partially to aid in preserving the country in its then 
condition. All would have been peace there. Had it not been done, 
that repose and quiet which pervaded the public mind then would hold 
it in tranquillity to-day. Instead of startling events, we should have 
quiet and peace within our borders, and that fraternal feeling which 
ought to animate the citizens of every part of the Union toward those 
of all other sections. 

" Sir, the events that are taking place around us are indeed star 
tling. They challenge the public mind, and appeal to the public judg 
ment ; they thrill the public nerve as electricity imparts a tremulous 
motion to the telegraphic wire. It is a period when all good men 
should unite in applying the proper remedy to secure peace and har 
mony to the country. Is this to be done by any of us, by remaining 
associated with those who have been instrumental in producing these 
results, and who now justify them ? I do not see my duty lying in 
that direction. 

" I have, while temporarily acquiescing, stated here and at home, 
everywhere uniformly, that when the tests of those measures were 
applied to me as one of party fidelity, I would sunder them as flax is 
sundered at the touch of fire. I do it now. 

" The occasion involves a question of moral duty ; and self-respect 
allows me no other line of duty but to follow the dictates of my own 
judgment and the impulses of my own heart. A just man may cheer 
fully submit to many enforced humiliations ; but a self-degraded man 
has ceased to be worthy to be deemed a man at all. 

"Sir, what has the recent Democratic Convention at Cincinnati 
done ? It has indorsed the measure I have condemned, and has sane- 


tioned its destructive and ruinous effects. It has done more, vastly 
more. That principle or policy of territorial sovereignty which once 
had, and which I suppose now has, its advocates within these walls is 
stricken down ; and there is an absolute denial of it in the resolution 
of the convention if I can draw right conclusions a denial equally 
to Congress, and even to the people of the territories, of the right to 
settle the question of slavery therein. On the contrary, the conven 
tion has actually incorporated into the platform of the Democratic 
party that doctrine which, only a few years ago, met nothing but ridi 
cule and contempt, here and elsewhere, namely, that the flag of the 
federal Union, under the Constitution of the United States, carries 
slavery wherever it floats. If this baleful principle be true, then that 
national ode which inspires us always as on a battlefield should be 
rewritten by Drake, and should read thus : 

" Forever float that standard sheet ! 

Where breathes the foe but falls before us, 
With Slavery s soil beneath our feet, 
And Slavery s banner streaming o er us ? 

" Now, sir, what is the precise condition in which this matter is left 
by the Cincinnati convention ? I do not design to trespass many 
moments on the Senate ; but allow me to read and offer a very few 
comments upon some portions of the Democratic platform. The first 
resolution that treats upon the subject is in these words I read just 
so much of it as is applicable to my present remarks : 

" That Congress has no power under the Constitution to interfere 
with or control the domestic institutions of the several States ; and 
that all such States are the sole and proper judges of everything ap 
pertaining to their own affairs not prohibited by the Constitution. 

" I take it that this language, thus far, is language which meets a 
willing and ready response from every senator here certainly it 
does from me. But in the following resolution I find these words : 

" Resolved, That the foregoing proposition covers, and was intended 
to embrace, the whole subject of slavery agitation in Congress. 

" The first resolution which I read was adopted years ago in Demo 
cratic conventions. The second resolution which I read was adopted 
in subsequent years, when a different state of things had arisen, and 
it became necessary to apply an abstract proposition relating to the 
States to the territories. Hence, the adoption of the language con 
tained in the second resolution which I have read. 

"Now, sir, I deny the position thus assumed by the Cincinnati 
convention. In the language of the senator from Kentucky [Mr. 
Crittenden], so ably and so appropriately used on Tuesday last, I hold 
that the entire and unqualified sovereignty of the territories is in 
Congress. That is my judgment; but this resolution brings the terri- 


tories precisely within the same limitations which are applied to the 
States in the resolution which I first read. The two taken together 
deny to Congress any power of legislation in the territories. 

" Follow on, and let us see what remains. Adopted as a part of 
the present platform, and as necessary to a new state of things, and 
to meet an emergency now existing, the convention says : 

" The American Democracy recognize and adopt the principles 
contained in the organic laws establishing the territories of Kansas 
and Nebraska, as embodying the only sound and safe solution of the 
slavery question, upon which the great national idea of the people of 
this whole country can repose, in its determined conservatism of the 
Union, non-interference by Congress with slavery in States and 

" Then follows the last resolution. 

" Resolved, That we recognize the right of the people of all the 
territories, including Kansas and Nebraska, acting through the fairly 
expressed will of the majority of actual residents, and whenever the 
number of their inhabitants justifies it, to form a constitution, with or 
without domestic slavery, and be admitted into the Union upon terms 
of perfect equality with the other States. 

" Take all these resolutions together, and the deduction which we 
must necessarily draw from them is a denial to Congress of any power 
whatever to legislate upon the subject of slavery. The last resolu 
tion denies to the people of the territory any power over the subject, 
save when they shall have a sufficient number to form a constitution 
and become a State, and also denies that Congress has any power 
over the subject ; and so the resolutions hold that this power is at 
least in abeyance while the territory is in a territorial condition. That 
is the only conclusion which you can draw from these resolutions. 
Alas ! for short-lived territorial sovereignty. It came to its death in 
the house of its friends ; it was buried by the same hands which had 
given it baptism ! 

" But, sir, I did not rise for the purpose of discussing these reso 
lutions, but only to read them, and state the action which I propose 
to take in view of them. I may I probably shall take some sub 
sequent occasion, when I shall endeavor to present to the Senate and 
the country a fair account of what is the true issue presented to the 
people for their consideration and decision. 

" My object now is to show only that the Cincinnati convention 
has indorsed and approved of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 
from which so many evils have already flowed from which, I fear, 
more and worse evils must yet be anticipated. It would, of course, 
be expected that the presidential nominee of that convention would 
accept, cordially and cheerfully, the platform prepared for him by his 


party friends. No person can object to that. There is no equivoca 
tion on his part about the matter. I beg leave to read a short extract 
from a speech of that gentleman, made at his own home, within the 
last few days. In reply to the Keystone Club, which paid him a visit 
there, Mr. Buchanan said : 

" * Gentlemen, two weeks since I should have made you a longer 
speech, but now I have been placed on a platform of which I most 
heartily approve, and that can speak for me. Being the representa 
tive of the great Democratic party, and not simply James Buchanan, 
I must square my conduct according to the platform of the party, and 
insert no new plank, nor take one from it. 

" These events leave to me only one unpleasant duty, which is to 
declare here that I can maintain political associations with no party 
that insists upon such doctrines ; that I can support no man for Presi 
dent who avows and recognizes them ; and that the little of that 
power with which God has endowed me shall be employed to battle 
manfully, firmly, and consistently for his defeat, demanded as it is by 
the highest interests of the country which owns all my allegiance." 



THE bonds broken that had held Senator Hamlin to the Demo 
cracy, he was now free to follow the impulses of his heart and help 
organize the anti-slavery elements into a national party. The action 
of the Democracy at Cincinnati, in indorsing the doctrine that slavery 
was national, freed thousands of men from their allegiance to that 
organization, and the growth of the party of freedom was rapid, phe 
nomenal, from that time until it fought its first great battle. Mr. 
Hamlin s withdrawal from the Calhoun party helped swell the tide of 
Republicanism which was now rising at the North. The evidence 
of the newspapers of the day shows that Mr. Hamlin s abandonment 
of the slave-laden Democracy was the political sensation of the hour. 
He had entered politics in the days of Andrew Jackson, and to the 
young anti-slavery Democracy he seemed to have come down from 
the time of Old Hickory ; he had led his party in Maine to many a 
victory, and for twelve years had been one of its accepted champions 
in Congress ; he had been the follower and advocate of Benton, 
Wright, and Woodbury ; his defection from his party was the removal 
of a pillar from the temple of the Democracy. But the country at 
large had not been prepared for Mr. Hamlin s exit from the Demo 
cratic party. His course created, therefore, all the greater exultation 
among the friends of freedom, and the greater dismay among the sup 
porters of the slave party. His silence had served to enhance the 
importance of his rupture with the Democracy and the force of his 
powerful and unique declaration of independence. He had been just 
and generous to his party ; he had waited until it stultified itself by 
its own act before he left it. But Senator Hamlin was now more 
than justified in his course of action. He had kept touch of elbow 
with his party in Maine, and now when he joined the rapidly growing 
Republican party, he brought his followers with him, swept the Pine 
Tree State out of the Democracy, and placed it at the head of the 
column of Republican States, where it has since remained for nearly 
half a century. This was the most important act of Mr. Hamlin s 
eventful life. 

It is interesting to observe what the friends and foes of Free Soil 
had to say in regard to Senator Hamlin s course. The leading edi- 


torial in the "New York Times," on June 13, was entitled, "The 
Flight from Egypt," and is as follows : 

" It is not often that the telegraphic wires have throbbed with a piece of 
intelligence calculated to cause such varying emotions as that which was 
sent to the extreme points of the Union last night from the capital of the 
nation. It was the announcement of the first genuine effect of t^ie nomina 
tion of Buchanan, and the adoption of a platform by the Cincinnati con 
vention approving the principles of the Douglas Democracy. It is the 
commencement of a flight from Egypt, we believe, of many a noble nature 
that has long been held in bondage by the inexorable Pharaohs of party. 
Honorable Hannibal Hamlin, who has represented the Democracy of Maine 
nine years in the United States Senate, and been a stanch member of the 
Democratic party, has been driven from his old associates by the action of 
the Cincinnati convention. He can stand the encroachments by the slave 
power no longer, and yesterday boldly declared in the Senate that hereafter 
he would use whatever power God had endowed him with to oppose the 
party which made the Kansas-Nebraska bill a part of its creed. Mr. Ham 
lin said he had been a silent member of the Senate for nine years, but his 
love of country, which was greater than his love of party, now compelled 
him to speak. And a noble speech he made, which would atone for twice 
nine years of silence. There was once a British member of the House of 
Commons who, during a lifelong time, made but one speech, but that was 
so eloquent and effective that it immortalized him ; and he is now known 
in history as single-speech Hamilton. What a mass of forgotten trash has 
been uttered in the Senate, while Mr. Hamlin sat silent ripening for the 
one brief speech that will make him famous ! It would be a happy thing 
for the country if we had a few more such single-speech senators." 

The " Boston Journal " said, among other things : 

" Like many other high-minded Democrats, Mr. Hamlin cannot stand 
the new test which has been introduced into the creed of the party. He 
is a Democrat of the old school, a disciple of Jefferson, and declines to 
follow the fortunes of a party which has departed so widely from first prin 
ciples, and which makes the support of slavery the highest purpose of its 
political action. Mr. Hamlin voted consistently against the Nebraska bill, 
believing it to be a great moral and political wrong, but, unlike some other 
Northern Democrats who opposed the bill in Congress, but have not the 
moral courage to array themselves against the administration, he could not 
* acquiesce in a wrong, the bitter fruits of which the country is daily reap 
ing. . . . Mr. Hamlin could not consistently remain in the party, and in 
withdrawing from it, he has, with a delicacy which does him credit, resigned 
his place as chairman of the Committee on Commerce to which he was 
appointed as a Democrat. The course of Mr. Hamlin derives the more 
importance from the fact that he undoubtedly represents a large class of 
Democrats in his own State and elsewhere, who can no longer act with their 
party, and will not support Mr. Buchanan and the platform which he 
4 most heartily approves. " 


The " New York Tribune " said in part : 

" Mr. Hamlin is one of the foremost men of his State, of spotless in 
tegrity, scrupulous fidelity to principle, and of extensive personal influence. 
He opposed the Nebraska bill quietly but firjnly ; he henceforth opposes 
that party which makes that bill its shibboleth. His declaration must have 
great weight with the other Democrats who still cherish a lingering devo 
tion to free soil and free speech." 

The comments of the Democratic press of Maine on Mr. Hamlin s 
repudiation of their party are both interesting and instructive. The 
Democratic leaders of this State favored the nomination of Buchanan. 
Nathan Clifford, John Appleton, and George F. Shepley, three of the 
Portland leaders, influenced their delegation at the Cincinnati conven 
tion to vote for Buchanan. He recognized their claims by appoint 
ing Mr. Clifford associate justice of the United States Supreme 
Court, by making Mr. Appleton first assistant secretary of state, and 
finally minister to Russia, and by reappointing Mr. Shepley United 
States district attorney for the district of Maine. The Maine follow 
ers of Mr. Buchanan had, therefore, more than one reason for dislik 
ing Mr. Hamlin s rejection of their chief. Mr. Appleton, who is not 
to be confounded with the eminent late chief justice of the State, 
was then editor of the " Eastern Argus." He was a man of unusual 
ability and character, and in previous years had indorsed the Wil- 
mot Proviso and supported Mr. Hamlin. But adhesion to party had 
begotten in him that kind of conservatism that kept many good men 
within the ranks of the Democracy. Portions of Mr. Appleton s 
attack on Mr. Hamlin in the "Argus" of June 16, 1856, may be 
quoted : 

" Ever since the Wilmot Proviso was first introduced in Congress Mr. 
Hamlin has been gradually but surely tending towards the political preci 
pice over which he has now taken his fatal plunge. . . . For years Mr. 
Hamlin has been hovering on the confines of the party half claimed by the 
opposition, and rendering them aid and comfort by his peculiar position. 
The troops he could no longer control have long since left us. Last fall 
he voted against us at the polls. [This is not true. Ed.] He now follows 
his baggage and men into the ranks of the opposition. We congratulate 
our political friends that he has at last defined his position. . . . The Demo 
cracy of Maine have no representative in the Senate of the United States. 
The man whom they have twice elected to that office, and whom they have 
loaded down with favors for twenty years, has proved unfaithful to their 
principles and joined their enemies. . . . The Democratic party was never 
in a better condition to part with false friends, or withstand the assaults of 
open enemies. 

" The reason given by Mr. Hamlin for his desertion denotes a foregone 
conclusion in his mind. He complains of the repeal of the Missouri Com 
promise. Yet for all practical purposes this repeal was embodied in the 


platform of 1852. As a matter of principle, there is nothing in the resolu 
tions adopted at Cincinnati which was not contained in the compromises 
of 1850 and the Baltimore resolutions of 1852. We do not understand 
how any man who could support the latter can hesitate to support the 
former. But in point of fact who proposes to restore the Missouri Com 
promise ? In joining the opposition, has Mr. Hamlin any expectation that 
the policy of the government on this subject will be changed ? Is there 
any longer a doubt that the principles of self-government embraced in the 
Kansas act will be sustained by the people ? Is any party yet so infatuated 
as to raise the standard of repeal and state issues on that result ? . . . The 
opposition expend their time and energies only in creating a wicked excite 
ment upon incidental subjects. ... In vague (sic !) terms they shout de 
nunciation against slavery ; but they propose no practical remedy for it, 
and only lash the public mind into a worse than useless rage. They hold 
indignation meetings about the attack on Sumner ; but if every man, woman, 
and child in the country were to join in their resolves, and shout Amen ! 
to their violent outcries, how would this change the conduct of affairs in 
Kansas, or affect the future policy of the government ? They shriek daily 
anathemas against Border Ruffianism in Missouri ; but nobody defends 
Border Ruffianism. . . . Their sole capital is agitation, constant, unceas 
ing violent agitation. He [Buchanan] will have the full confidence of the 
whole country, and will be able to give it repose. Mr. Hamlin will oppose 
him but a large majority of the people of Maine will give him a warm 
and enthusiastic support." 

There was a column or more of this. The only comment to be 
made is that it was after all an elaborate, though unintentional, testi 
monial to Senator Hamlin s consistent devotion to the principles of 
Free Soil. The argument also shows how blind good and prominent 
men were to their real duty. When it is remembered that the Maine 
Democracy had eminent leaders at this time, such as Nathan Clifford, 
George F. Shepley, John Appleton, James W. Bradbury, Robert P. 
Dunlap, and many other upright men, the more clearly Mr. Ham 
lin s course stands out in relief. 

The blatherskite view of Mr. Hamlin s departure from the Demo 
cracy was expressed in the " Bangor Democrat," the newspaper which 
called him a "disunionist," and urged his defeat in the senatorial cam 
paign of 1850. Among other things, this journal said of Mr. Hamlin s 
notice of withdrawal : - 

" It was only a statement of a preexisting and notorious fact, as long 
ago he fell from grace, his fall having commenced with opposition to the 
reannexation of Texas, and progressed slowly but steadily until he reached 
his present level. Occasionally he has paused in his downward career, but 
it was only a halt as if for rest and to find the best and easiest path to reach 
the bottom. . . . For his last election to the Senate he is indebted to the 
Abolitionists, and he now proposes to pay that debt and to render services 


which entitle him to reelection at the hands of the Black Republicans. . . . 
For years many of the national Democrats of this State have had no confi 
dence in him as a party man. He has done more than any other person to 
abolitionize it, and create a sectional sentiment. There is nobody to go 
with or follow him to the Black Republican patty." 

Other comments equally prophetic and amusing might be cited, but 
enough has been reproduced to give an idea of the rancorous partisan 
ship Mr. Hamlin had to contend with when he vindicated his prin 
ciples in 1856. But the open-minded, progressive people of Maine 
raised one voice in approval of his course; indeed, as soon as he 
officially severed his connection with the Democracy, a spontaneous 
demand came from the Republicans of Maine that Mr. Hamlin should 
be their candidate for governor in the coming election. This was the 
first effect produced in Maine by Mr. Hamlin s exit from the Demo 
cracy, and is alluded to now, although the incident is more fully ex 
plained later. He was undoubtedly embarrassed by this movement, 
for he felt himself in a peculiar position. He wanted to be guided by 
his delicate sense of propriety. The truth is, when Mr. Hamlin 
resigned the chairmanship of the Committee on Commerce, he would 
have relinquished his seat in the Senate also if circumstances had per 
mitted. But Samuel Wells was now governor of Maine, and although 
a man of high personal character, he supported the Pierce administra 
tion, and would have appointed a Pierce follower to succeed Mr. 
Hamlin. Thus if the latter had resigned his post in the Senate, the 
anti-slavery party would have lost a vote, and the slave party would 
have gained one in .that body when the Kansas troubles were an issue 
before Congress. Mr. Hamlin reasoned that he should remain in the 
Senate to oppose the plots against Kansas ; his sense of delicacy per 
suaded him that if he should take the nomination for governor, he 
should then give up his chair in the Senate. He did not see how he 
could hold two positions at the same time. He came to Maine several 
times, and sincerely urged his friends to take another man. There 
was only one way to overcome Mr. Hamlin s scruples, and that was 
to force the nomination on him. This was done. 

While affairs in Maine were developing in this manner, the Repub 
lican party held its first national convention. By a happy coincidence 
this took place in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the Declaration of 
Independence, and on the anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill 
the 1 7th of June. Never since the gathering of the fathers of this 
republic was there a more patriotic assemblage of men brought to 
gether within the walls of that historic city. They were the fathers 
of the party which afterwards wiped out slavery, crushed a rebellion 
against the government, saved the republic, and dedicated it anew to 
the preservation of human liberty and the advancement of civilization. 


They came together to enforce a fundamental doctrine of the Consti 
tution, to preserve the liberty of the individual, whereby the free- 
born citizens of the North could prevent a selfish party, not content 
with the entire territory of the South, from forcing slavery into their 
lives. The Declaration of Independence was the first plank in their 
platform; the extinguishment of the "twin relics of barbarism," sla 
very and polygamy, in the territories, their slogan. Abolitionists, 
Whigs, and Democrats could stand together on this platform. Joshua 
R. Giddings, Horace Greeley, Hannibal Hamlin, Henry Wilson, John 
P. Hale, Charles Francis Adams, John A. King, David Wilmot, Pres 
ton King, Edwin D. Morgan, George W. Julian, Zachariah Chan 
dler, Ben Wade, Galusha A. Grow, N. B. Judd, Henry S. Lane, 
Robert Emmet, Caleb B. Smith, Owen Lovejoy, and many others 
whose names are now historic in national or state records were 
among the leading men at this convention. 

Senator Hamlin attended the convention out of sympathy with the 
cause it represented. But it would appear that he had another reason 
for being present. His retirement from the Democracy only five 
days before the Republican Convention opened was a source of con 
gratulation and live interest to the delegates flocking to Philadelphia, 
and it seems that during the contest between Fremont and McLean 
for the nomination for President an undertow of sentiment developed 
in favor of Senator Hamlin as a compromise candidate. The mem 
bers of the Maine delegation received the suggestion with enthu 
siasm, and, without Mr. Hamlin s knowledge or permission, at once 
prepared to present his name to the convention. This was one of 
several incidents that connected Mr. Hamlin s name with the presi 
dency which he never mentioned to his family. The circumstance 
was learned through a letter Joseph Bartlett, editor of the " Bangor 
Jeffersonian," and a member of the Republican National Executive 
Committee, wrote to Mr. Hamlin the day before the convention was 
opened. It is known that Senator Hamlin immediately left Wash 
ington, and went to Philadelphia for the purpose of stopping this 
movement. This emphasized his unwillingness to become a presiden 
tial candidate. He had seen enough of that high office to understand 
its great responsibilities. He preferred to be a senator rather than 

Mr. Hamlin s choice for President was John McLean, of Ohio, 
whose high character, ability, long public experience as senator, post 
master-general, and associate justice of the United States Supreme 
Court, and pronounced anti-slavery convictions, indicated him, in Mr. 
Hamlin s opinion, as the safest man for the convention to name. 
But the popular demand was for John Charles Fremont, whose pic- 


turesque exploring expeditions in the Rocky Mountains and the far 
West had given him an interest in the public eye that few men of his 
day could claim. He was young, brave, able, and dashing ; his title, 
the " Pathfinder," was a name to conjure with among the masses. 
Youth and enthusiasm dominated the convention, and Fremont was 
nominated by a vote of 359 to 196 for McLean. William L. Day 
ton, one of the best men New Jersey ever produced, was taken for 
Vice-President from a number of competitors, one being Abraham 
Lincoln, who received no votes. He was so little known at that 
time outside of the Northwest that when his name was presented 
inquiries were heard, " Who is he ? " Mr. Hamlin, it is needless to 
say, gave his hearty support to the ticket, Fremont and Dayton, 
and forthwith entered into the campaign, a contest, the like of 
which the country had never seen before, and has never seen since. 
The Republican cause was right, and the North was stirred as never 
before. The masses were beginning to see that if they did not wish 
to hear the crack of the slave driver s whip in their streets, and 
witness the sale of human flesh and blood, they must stand by the 
party of Free Soil. 

Republican enthusiasm overran the North as fire spreads over 
a prairie. Verily, the hilltops were lighted. Immense ratification 
meetings were held. One of the first which was long famous in 
the annals of Massachusetts politics took place at Faneuil Hall, 
on June 23. This is of personal interest. It was at this meeting 
that Senator Hamlin made his first Republican speech, which un 
doubtedly formed the basis of his speeches in the memorable cam 
paign that followed in Maine. This occasion attracted an overflowing 
crowd, and was a night of jubilation and excitement. The scene 
as described by the newspapers was stirring indeed. Old parties 
and issues were forgotten. " Free Soil and Fremont " was the cry. 
Thomas D. Eliot, a former Whig representative in Congress, with 
whom Mr. Hamlin entertained very cordial relations, was the presid 
ing officer. The newspaper reports described Mr. Hamlin s reception 
as the dramatic scene of the evening. Unfortunately, only a rough 
report of his speech was given, for shorthand reporting was not 
commonly employed by the newspapers at that time. Many of the 
main points were undoubtedly expressed in the reporter s own words. 
Yet the substance was saved and is herewith presented : 

"Your cheers assure me that the spirit of your Puritan fathers glows 
within your bosoms. For the first time in my life my foot has trod upon 
the soil where was shed the blood of the first martyrs of the Revolution ; 
for the first time I stand within these hallowed walls, and there comes an 
echo responsive from every bosom ; within these walls three fourths of a 
century ago shouts for freedom were raised, and rocked them even as now. 


The infant form of liberty was cradled here, and you have gathered to 
protect its manly and matured form. Here we should feel the sentiments 
that inspired the souls of Adams, Otis, and Warren. Their revolution was 
that of force ; our revolution is that of the ballot-box. These are revolu 
tionary times, times when your cheers should fill with dismay every 
Hunker Democrat in the old Bay State. [Cheers.] I tell the honest 
Democrats of Massachusetts, and I tell you all, the train is in motion, 
and unless they jump on soon, the cars will be gone and they will be left 

" There is in this struggle but a single issue, liberty against slavery. 
The Hunker press of the North and the South have had the boldness for 
the first time to stand forth and avow their position. It is no longer the 
question of abolition at the South, but it is whether slavery shall not be 
extended over the whole North; not whether the negro slaves shall be 
emancipated, but whether the free laboring men of the North shall not 
be reduced to the level of the slaves. [Cries, * That s it. ] It is a time 
for men of all classes to rally to the standard and preserve the institutions 
of freedom bequeathed to you by your fathers. The old party issues have 
no longer any force. Questions of commercial considerations now pass 
away before the rising of the dark issues of slavery. With the passing of 
these oldtirne issues, I stand here side by side with one whom in former 
years I contended warmly on party issues of the day ; but now it is one of 
the proudest days of my life that I can forget past feelings, and stand here 
to battle for the institutions of the North. 

" It has been announced that I was a member of the Democratic party 
that was. [Laughter.] It has ceased to be a Democratic party in prin 
ciple ; it has inaugurated a policy that makes it a negro slave party, a sec 
tional party, only more sectional than the Garrison Abolition party ever 
was. 1 A single point embraces its creed. No matter what may have been 
a man s political antecedents, he may have been steeped to his lips in 
Whiggery ; he may have been dyed in Federalism, if he comes up to the 
standard of slavery he is as white as the driven snow in the eyes of this 
Democracy. It has no other issue than slavery propagandism. We are 
called a sectional party ; but while it is true that we do not number quite 
as many men at the South as the Democratic party does at the North, my 
word for it, sir, we will have more men with us from the South than they 
will from the North, if the North but stands by the doctrines of Washing 
ton, Jefferson, and Madison. 

" There is something in this contest with slavery that grinds out the 
spirit of men. God knows how often I have seen a representative of the 
North yield up the rights of the free laborer to the slave power of the South. 

1 The erratic attitude of the Abolition party was expressed by William Lloyd 
Garrison, who said in the Liberator, "We dissent from the sentiment, the dispo 
sition to divide the Union is very slight now, for it is widespread and growing 
every hour, and will undoubtedly be greatly increased by the triumph of Border 
Ruffianism in the person of James Buchanan. There is strong ground for believ 
ing that he will be the last President of the United States, in which case the 
jubilee is not far distant." 


Sectional are we ? Why, sir, we have a principle as broad as our common 
country. . . . The Southern slaveholders know in their hearts and con 
sciences that they are sustaining doctrines that are wrong. We support a 
principle that is national, that applies to the whole country. Our oppo 
nents seek to foist on the country that which belongs only to the local laws 
of the South. Which is the sectional, which is the national party ? Such 
are the two parties. 

" The Democracy, at its recent convention at Cincinnati, inaugurated 
the policy that neither the people of the territories nor Congress had the 
right to control the institution of slavery in our territories. We might as 
well believe that the citizens of Massachusetts could not by a system of 
quarantine exclude the yellow fever from their State. [Cheers.] But this 
policy of the Democratic party is the alchemy through which everything 
it distills enters into the government. The Missouri Compromise was 
repealed only and solely to extend the peculiar institution, and the fruits 
of that repeal we see on every hand. We see desolation in our territo 
ries ; men murdered, women fleeing from their homes with babies clinging 
to their bosoms ! Yet we are told that this Democratic policy should 
command our respect. It is but the legitimate fruits of this policy that we 
witness at the capital of the nation. What is it but the Democratic policy 
that shoots hotel waiters, cowhides editors, prostrates senators in the halls 
of Congress ? It is the legitimate fruits of that policy that finds support 
in this administration, indorsement at the Cincinnati convention which 
nominated that person who is to carry out precisely the same principles 
the present administration is sustaining. 

" I appeal to the laboring men of Massachusetts. Will they stand up for 
such a party standing on such principles ? [Cries of No ! No ! ] Labor 
lies at the foundation of the prosperity of every government. Labor builds 
up the cities, delves in the mines, works in your machine shops, sends 
your canvas across the trackless deep. And I ask the laboring men of 
Massachusetts as a laboring man, for I am one myself, Will you sus 
tain a policy that would degrade you beside the slave ? [Cries of No ! 
No! ] 

" I know Mr. Buchanan well, and it is consoling to know that he was 
nominated pledged to support the present administration, this adminis 
tration which came in by accident and goes out by design. . . . This much 
I would say of our political opponents : always treat them truthfully and 
fairly. [ Good ! That s right ! ]... James Buchanan has been a conser 
vative man, but he is a different man standing on the Cincinnati plat 
form. While he is a statesman of eminent abilities, he is peculiarly fitted 
for his present position, because he has always been ready to adopt any 
opinion to advance himself. During the war of 1812 he was a Federalist, 
and now he is a modern Democrat. Was he not in favor of and against 
the national bank ? Was he not in favor of protection in Pennsylvania, 
and is he not now running on a platform that typifies free trade run mad ? 
Moreover, is it not true that he once stood up in Pennsylvania a gallant 
defender of the freeman ? Did he not denounce the aggressions of the slave 


power in 1821 ? But does he not support slavery under the new dogmas 
of his party s creed ? I know no prominent question nor measure which 
has agitated this country during the last twenty years on which Mr. Buch 
anan has not been on both sides. [A hiss.] It has been said that the hiss 
of a goose once saved Rome ; but all the hisses in Massachusetts cannot 
save the Hunker Democracy. [Roars of laughter.] . . . Are you ready, 
men of Massachusetts, for the contest ? [Cheers and Yes ! Yes ! ] Kindle, 
then, the fires ; throw out your banners to the breeze, with the legend in 
scribed, God and the right, and in that sign we will conquer." 

Mr. Hamlin proceeded to Portland, where the Republicans of Maine 
fired their first big gun of the campaign. This occasion was described 
by the press of Portland as one of the most notable in the history of 
political parties in the State. It represented a spontaneous uprising 
of the masses, and in its personnel and speakers demonstrated that 
many distinguished leaders and thousands of the rank and file of % the 
old parties had thrown off their former ties to ally themselves with 
the new party of freedom. Thomas A. Deblois, Mr. Hamlin s law 
preceptor and once an ardent Whig, was the presiding officer. Sen 
ator Fessenden and ex-Governor Kent, who had led the Whig party 
to great victories in Maine, now joined hands with Mr. Hamlin and 
Lot M. Morrill to speak for Republicanism. The newspapers did 
not report the speeches, but it appears that Mr. Hamlin delivered 
substantially the same remarks he made at Boston. He was received 
as the coming standard-bearer of the Republican party. The follow 
ing comment of the "Argus," of June 26, on Mr. Hamlin s appear 
ance at this meeting, was a prophecy that was not realized : " He has 
left a glorious and renowned party whose principles are ever young, 
and has united himself with a deformed monster whose embrace is 

The next day, June 27, the Republicans of the Bangor district held 
their first ratification meeting, when Mr. Hamlin addressed his old 
neighbors for the first time as a Republican. This was another 
extraordinary outpouring of the people. Norumbega Hall was 
crowded to its utmost capacity long before the speaking began. 
Bangor was not only alive with excitement and interest, but the 
neighboring towns added to the throng. Hollis Bowman, mayor of 
Bangor, called the meeting to order ; Elijah Hamlin was elected chair 
man ; Captain Luther H. Eaton and \Villiam Sanford were appointed 
secretaries ; Jabez True, William H. Mills, General Samuel F. Her- 
sey, S. P. Strickland, J. A. Cushing, Eben French, John Short, 
Thomas A. Taylor, J. T. K. Hayward, John Williams, G. K. Jewett, 
John S. Chadwick, and B. S. Deane, of Bangor ; Gorham Davis, of 
Bradford ; Henry Richardson, of Old Town ; Charles E. Dole, of 
Brewer ; Reuben K. Stetson, of Hampden ; J. Nickerson, of Orring- 


ton ; E. F. Crane, of Kenduskeag, and J. N. Svvasey, of Bucksport, 
were the vice-presidents. 

The first speech, by Noah Barker, of Exeter, a land surveyor of 
high standing, and afterward land agent o Maine, brought the situ 
ation in Kansas before the assembly. He had gone to Kansas a 
Pierce Democrat. But there he saw Border Ruffians murder men, 
drive women from their homes, sack houses, and stuff ballot-boxes 
with the connivance of the administration to make Kansas a slave 
State ; and finally he himself was driven out of the territory at the 
point of a revolver, on the mere suspicion of being an Abolitionist. 
Lot M. Morrill followed with a renunciation of the Democracy, and 
then Senator Hamlin came forward. A dramatic scene occurred in 
the midst of his opening remarks. Mr. Hamlin spoke first to his 
brother Elijah : 

" I never return to my Northern home and the State of my nativity with 
out thanking God that I was born in Maine, on free soil, and among free 
men. You and I, sir, for the first time in our lives, stand upon the same 
political platform, and battle for the same great cause. And let me tell you, 
sir, that that cause involves the destiny of your country and mine. When 
you were the candidate of the great Whig party for governor of our native 
State, in which we both feel so much pride, you did not receive my suffrage, 
and when I was the humble candidate of the late Democratic party for its 
national representative, I did not receive your vote. Now, thank God, 
we stand firmly together upon a platform broad as the Union, and with 
the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for our principles. 
Those words, dear to every American, liberty and union, are emblazoned 
on it in letters of living light. Brother, I give you the right hand of polit 
ical fellowship, and, God grant, may we always remain side by side in the 
cause of our country and human liberty." 

And so saying, Senator Hamlin extended his hand to Elijah. They 
embraced each other, and cemented new ties that were auspicious of 
a permanent union between anti- slavery Whigs and Democrats. 
Thus the compact of the two brothers made as boys was absolved. 
They could now stand together after a separation of more than a 
quarter of a century, and strive for the same political principles. 
Senator Hamlin continued after the cheering had subsided : 

" The times and the issue that is to be made call upon every patriot 
throughout our republic to decide whether liberty and the Union, or sla 
very and the Union, shall be the characteristic of our government. This 
is the only issue. The bank, the tariff, the revenue, those old issues 
have passed into abeyance. The question we must settle at our next elec 
tion, and settle forever, is whether the free labor of the North shall be 
degraded to an equality and a daily association with slave labor. It is 
whether our daily laborers shall be reduced to the miserable degradation of 
the poor white laborers of the South, whom even the slaves treat with con- 


tempt. Already the South is demanding that slavery shall go into the 
Northern States in spite of state laws, state constitutions, and state rights. 
Four of the Southern States instructed their delegates to demand from the 
Cincinnati convention a distinct recognition of this principle. They have 
virtually obtained their demands. They are perfectly satisfied with the 
platform adopted. 

" The aggressions of the slave power have been constant and pressing. 
It was the South that made the Missouri Compromise live in order to 
snatch a portion of free territory from freedom and curse it with slavery. 
Grown strong with increasing years and more States, and incited by the 
servility of Northern dough-faces, the slave power repealed that ordinance 
in order to secure the whole of the remaining territories of this Union, the 
President solemnly promised that he would not allow any further agitation 
of the slavery question during his official term. Whilst these words were 
yet upon his lips, Franklin Pierce entered into a conspiracy which in infamy 
and damnable consequences is only surpassed in the history of .the world 
by the traitorous Judas. Common gratitude should have taught these trai 
tors to have renominated New Hampshire s degenerate son ; but although 
they knew that he was elected almost unanimously, he would have been 
beaten this time almost unanimously. The South is too cunning to re-use 
its blunted tools. The leaders of the slave power take a weak-backed 
man, use him for their degrading purposes, and then coldly send him home 
to everlasting disgrace. I speak next week in the home of Frank Pierce, 
and, God willing, I mean to free my mind there. 

" The so-called Democratic party, although it has thrown overboard 
every Democratic principle of Jefferson, Jackson, and the great and good 
Silas Wright, who died too early for his country s good, the Demo 
cratic party is responsible for this intense excitement, for the murderous 
assault upon an eloquent and accomplished senator upon the floor of 
the Senate, for the blood-stained fields of Kansas, where freemen have 
been cruelly shot without provocation by citizens of the same republic. 
For all these high crimes and misdemeanors I arraign before the Ameri 
can people these Cincinnati aiders and abetters of the Border Ruffians. I 
charge these crimes upon them, the undivided votes of the slave power 
in Congress sustain them ; the resolutions at the Cincinnati convention 
indorsing the present administration sanction these crimes ! 

" But the Republican party is not sectional. It stands upon the Con 
stitution and the Declaration of Independence. It goes with Jefferson, 
with Jackson, with Wright, with Clay, with Webster, with the Adamses, 
with all the early patriots upon resistance to the extension of the slave 

" The present dynasty of the slave oligarchy has put in nomination a 
man suitable for its purposes, James Buchanan. He has been on every 
side of every important question since he has been in political life. I con 
cede to him eminent abilities and spotless private life, and when I have 
said that, I have told all that can be enumerated in his favor. He is cold, 
haughty, and reserved. His social qualities are so frigid that a thermome- 


ter to take his temperature must have the point of temperature somewhere 
below the degree at which mercury freezes. His frozen heart was never 
warmed by woman s charms, and so there can be nothing on earth that 
will soften him to any humanity. 

" On the other hand, there is the young, the gallant, the chivalric Fre 
mont, with the smack of victory even in his name. It rings clear as the 
bugle s call. He is the Columbus of the land. He has endured in the 
vast plains and mountain fastnesses of the great West all the hardships 
that human nature can endure. His occupation is that of the early man 
hood of Washington. He first planted the stars and stripes upon the 
Pacific coast. He was the first governor of California, her first senator 
in Congress. I have known him intimately for years. Before he was 
mentioned for the presidency, all who came in contact with him spoke of 
his wonderful genius, and conceded that he was one of the greatest men of 
the age. Born and educated in the South, he has always detested slavery. 
He loves free soil and free labor, for his heart is generous and manly. 
When he started for his last exploration, he was solicited to purchase a 
female slave for his wife Jessie and her young child, to aid them in his ab 
sence. His noble reply was, I love my wife as a husband should ; I love 
my child as a father should ; but Jess must work for her support before I 
will own one cent of property in a fellow being. 

" Let all who love their country forget and forgive past animosities 
and petty jealousies, and unite upon the broad national Republican plat 

The Democratic party held its state convention at Bangoron July i. 
It was a numerous, enthusiastic gathering, and this contributed to 
blind the politicians to the drift of popular sentiment. The conser 
vative force of party action was well illustrated by the presence of 
many honorable men, who had decided to remain with the Demo 
cracy although their consciences could not wholly approve its course. 
Robert P. Dunlap, four times governor of Maine, four years a member 
of Congress, four times president of the Maine Senate, and collector 
of the port of Portland, presided over the convention. Among the 
speakers were James W. Bradbury, who had just retired from the 
United States Senate ; George F. Shepley, who then stood among 
the leaders of the Maine bar ; John Appleton, who was editor of the 
"Eastern Argus," had served in Congress, and was to be first assist 
ant secretary of state, under Buchanan ; John C. Talbot, long a power 
in the Maine Democracy ; and others, including Moses Macdonald, 
the only congressman from Maine who voted for the repeal of the 
Missouri Compromise. From Dunlap to Macdonald was another way 
of reading the descent of the Democracy from Jackson to Buchanan. 
Governor Wells was unanimously renominated, indorsed by the 
ghastly faction called the straight Whigs, and the combination entered 
the fight absolutely confident of success. 


The first state convention held in Maine that represented pure and 
undefiled Republicanism was the one that took place at Portland on 
July 8, 1856, and nominated Hannibal Hamlin for governor. There 
had been two so-called Republican conventions in 1854 and 1855, but 
they represented the interests of the Know-Nothing party, while 
recognizing the temperance element and the undeveloped Republican 
sentiment. The rise of the Know-Nothing party was phenomenal. 
At one time it numbered fully a million and three quarters members. 
Its growth was so rapid that many good men were swept from their 
anchorage into its ranks. But while the Know-Nothing party was 
an abnormal development of American politics in one way, it was 
really a bubbling of the political caldron in which the old parties were 
undergoing a transmutation. In Maine this organization had a brief 
existence. Senator Hamlin, for one, strongly opposed it on account 
of its proscriptive creed. For this reason he supported Wells for 
governor in 1855, which was before Mr. Wells had squarely identi 
fied himself with the progressive pro-slavery party. But this Repub 
lican convention was purged of any suspicion of having the taint of 
Know-Nothingism. Hundreds of men who, like Mr. Hamlin, had 
fought Know-Nothingism were delegates to the convention. But 
this phase of politics was swallowed up in the great convulsions that 
were now ending the old parties in Maine. The preservation of free 
soil and the liberty of the individual was the rallying call of this 

In its character, attendance, unanimity of purpose, and enthusiasm, 
the Republican Convention of 1856 has never been surpassed in Maine, 
according to the testimony of its survivors. It marked an epoch 
when men were moved by their moral convictions and sense of justice 
as never before since the organization of Maine into a State ; and 
among the delegates were many who afterwards rose to national and 
state distinction as leaders of the party whose organization they then 
perfected. The convincing proof of the unanimous spirit that ani 
mated this assemblage is that it bestowed the nomination for gov 
ernor on Mr. Hamlin against his wishes, and even before it could be 
definitely ascertained whether he would accept. This was in obedi 
ence to popular party demand, which had grown so strong that it was 
now irresistible. The newspapers of the day, the letters Mr. Hamlin 
received, the personal evidence of survivors, all show this, and pages 
might be written on this point alone if there were space. The unique 
feature was that Mr. Hamlin himself was the chief opposition to his 
own nomination, and he was sincerely desirous that another man 
should be chosen. This was conceded by his opponents afterwards. 
The truth is, Mr. Hamlin still feared that if he retained his seat in 
the Senate, and at the same time ran for governor, he might lessen 


his party s chances of success. But the delegates met this objection 
in two ways : first, they showed that he was under no obligations to 
consider the feelings of the Hunkers ; second, they nominated him 
before he made his decision known. 

There were about twelve hundred delegates in the convention, and 
more than eleven hundred voted for Mr. Hamlin. A few cast their 
votes for the presiding officer, Freeman H. Morse, as a compliment 
to him. Mr. Morse had advocated Mr. Hamlin s nomination, and, 
moreover, had just been chosen the Republican nominee for Congress 
in the Bath district. This substantially unanimous action of the con 
vention was followed by the adoption of a resolution, expressing the 
wish and opinion of the assemblage that Mr. Hamlin should not resign 
his seat in the Senate. This relieved him of any personal responsi 
bility that might attach to his appearance in the dual capacity of 
senator and candidate for governor. It was now a party affair, and 
as pressure was so powerful, Mr. Hamlin had to yield, and promise 
to accept the nomination. But apparently to make sure that he 
would run, delegates, after adjournment had been taken, sent him 
messages that would be interesting reading were there room for them. 
The purport may be gathered from three : One was from Charles J. 
Talbot, Mr. Hamlin s lifelong friend : " We will not excuse you ; you 
will take five thousand votes from the Democracy. It is your duty 
to run." The second, from Dennis L. Milliken, of Waterville, once 
a prominent leader : " The convention has nominated you. If you 
should come here and decline, the party would still vote for you." 
George H. Shirley : "You must accept ; God bless you." 

No man could help being touched at this proof of confidence in his 
abilities of leadership, and when Mr. Hamlin saw that his nomination 
was clearly due to a spontaneous outburst in his favor, he rose to the 
occasion, and declared that he would fight the slave power as he had 
never fought it before. Then began a campaign that the veteran 
politicians of Maine assert has no equal, to their knowledge, in the 
annals of the nation, in point of responsiveness of the masses to the 
presentation of great moral issues, the dramatic surprises furnished, 
the tension of feeling produced, and exciting incidents evolved. 
Throughout, Mr. Hamlin s picturesque personality was the central 
figure in a procession of never-to-be-forgotten scenes by those who 
witnessed them. As a personal canvass nothing like it had been seen 
before in Maine ; to quote Thomas B. Reed, " It was a triumphal 
procession from one end of the State to the other." Mr. Hamlin 
was at the height of his mental and physical powers, in the prime of 
his imperial manhood. His heart and soul were in his work. The 
result was the crowning triumph of his long battle against the slave 


At the beginning of the campaign the Republican leaders were 
doubtful of achieving a decisive victory ; at the most, they hoped to 
save Maine from the Democracy by electing Mr. Hamlin by a major 
ity of several thousand votes, four or five thousand was regarded 
as the extreme limit. He who at the opening of the fight predicted 
a Republican landslide was set down as a dreamer or an erratic 
guesser. The conditions forbade sanguine expectations of a sweeping 
victory for either side. The vote at the previous election had resulted 
in a drawn battle. Governor Morrill, the Republican, Temperance, 
and Know-Nothing candidate, received 51,441 votes; Wells, Demo 
crat, 48,341 ; Isaac Reed, Whig, 10,610. There was no choice by 
the people, and the Democrats and their Whig allies, having control 
of the legislature, chose Mr. Wells governor. Thus the Democrats 
and their Whig allies held the fort, and, moreover, they had all the 
reinforcements they wanted from Washington. Finally, in the dis 
integration of parties this year more Whigs came over to the Demo 
cracy, led by no less a man than George Evans, who, in Mr. Hamlin s 
opinion, was the most intellectual man Maine ever sent to Congress. 
When Evans was in the Senate, Clay said of him : " Mr. Evans knows 
more about the finances than any other man in the United States." 
When he left the Senate, Webster .said " his retirement would be a 
serious loss to the government and the country." Alas ! If Evans 
had only seen the slavery question right. He is now forgotten. 

Although the outcome of the campaign appeared in doubt in the 
opening stages, yet when Mr. Hamlin took his place at the head of 
his party, he expected to carry the State by a substantial majority. 
But this was before he had felt the public pulse. After the campaign 
had fairly begun, his hopes of a sweeping victory strengthened as he 
read the signs of the times. He did not, to be sure, foresee in all its 
scope the revolution that was impending and which appeared to the 
country as if it had been produced by magic. He did, however, pre 
dict his election by a majority of 10,000 or 15,000 votes. This would 
have been regarded as a triumph of great magnitude, and there were 
but few leaders who could agree with Mr. Hamlin in his prophecy, 
much as they wanted to. But his estimate of his chances was not 
the result of a shrewd calculation ; it was an expression of his philo 
sophy of life, his knowledge of men. Out of his belief that life is 
development and progress, his faith in mankind and confidence in the 
honesty of others, there came an insight and foresight that a superior 
intellect could not possess unless it was united with rugged integrity 
of character and sincerity of purpose. Mr. Hamlin knew the masses 
of Maine. He had kept touch of elbow with them, and as he believed 
that " nothing was settled until it was ended right," so did he con 
fidently believe he would succeed. 


Senator Hamlin opened his campaign at Kittery, on August 4, 
when incidents occurred that at once filled him with absolute confi 
dence in victory. Many descriptions have been given of this notable 
occasion. All agree that it marked a spontaneous uprising of the 
people, and showed that they felt that Mr. Hamlin had lifted the 
slavery issue from a low partisan level into the pure air of lofty 
statesmanship. It was also described as an occasion when Mr. Ham 
lin gave signal proofs of his wonderful personal influence over an 
audience. General Mark F. Wentworth, of Kittery, a pioneer Repub 
lican and a lifelong friend of Mr. Hamlin, gave several accounts of 
this scene, which may be presented in general terms : " The outpour 
ing of the people was prodigious, but their attention and responsive 
ness to Senator Hamlin s speech were the more important feature. 
They came from miles around to hear him, and they stayed to the 
end. Mr. Hamlin was at his best, and he and the audience seemed 
to act and react on each other. While his speech was in the main 
that plain statement of fact which seems simple enough because it is 
the art that conceals art, it was pervaded with Hamlin s earnest, 
sincere, and magnetic personality, and at times wrought the audience 
up to a pitch of great enthusiasm. It was a powerful argument, and 
stamped Hamlin a great man. One who was there can never forget 
that magnificent-looking leader, his clear, ringing tenor voice, or the 
scene of the multitude as they hung on his lips in breathless silence 
one moment, and broke into spontaneous cheers the next." 

The interesting results that immediately followed Mr. Hamlin s 
opening speech appear to have vindicated his ability as a stump 
orator. Among his opponents and rivals in Maine were certain men 
who underrated him as a speechmaker, very much the same way that 
Mr. Lincoln s opponents and rivals underrated him. One who was 
in Congress with Mr. Hamlin said : " He has a rough, rude way of 
speaking that is effective with a certain portion of the crowd, but he 
is no speechmaker." This was the view of a jealous rival, and it may 
have affected others. As speech is an index to the personality, so 
were the speeches of Lincoln and Hamlin unique and original, 
because they were productions of unique and original men. Both 
avoided high-sounding phrases, big words, and the rounded period ; 
each aimed at the popular understanding, and each knew how, in his 
own way, to present a great question in a manner that would make it 
a home truth to the average mind. Perhaps the ability to lead the 
masses in the right path is more important to the welfare of this re 
public than ability to dominate Congress or interest the well-educated, 
since the republic rests on the multitude. The value of a speech 
depends on the effect it has on the public, and Mr. Hamlin s 
speeches are to be judged from this point of view. The Kittery 


meeting is a point in evidence. When Senator Hamlin closed, the 
great crowd lingered in an afterglow of enthusiasm, discussing and 
taking to heart the points he had made. At the same time many 
men thronged their way to Mr. Hamlin, and one after another said : 

" Senator, I have always been a Democrat, but now I am a Repub 
lican. You are right about the slavery question, and I will vote for 

In relating this incident to his son Charles, Mr. Hamlin said that 
he personally knew several of the men who thus addressed him and 
announced their conversion. " They represented the average type of 
citizen," said he, " and reflected the drift of popular sentiment. When 
they told me that they should vote for me, I knew that we would 
carry the State." 

From this time on until the close of the campaign, Senator Hamlin 
spoke continually. He addressed as many as one hundred meetings 
in a little over a month s time. He met the people in the cities, 
towns, and at the cross-roads. He was buoyed up with that enthu 
siasm which comes from confidence of success, and, as one of his 
admirers said, "swept around the State like a whirlwind." 

The newspapers of the day did not attempt to record the speeches 
delivered except on rare occasions, and as Mr. Hamlin never wrote 
out even the substance of his remarks, no further account of his 
speechmaking can be given. He varied his remarks at different 
places, seizing opportunity to present new illustrations which were 
peculiarly suited to the localities he visited. But as to the effect of 
his speeches, there is abundant testimony in addition to the eloquent 
evidence furnished by the vote. One interesting and important wit 
ness was James W. Nye, who stumped a part of the State with Mr. 
Hamlin, and thus heard him on many occasions. Mr. Nye was sub 
sequently a member of the United States Senate from Nevada, and 
was ranked as one of the wittiest and most effective speakers in that 
body. His popularity and ability may be judged from the fact that 
he was chosen by the Republican National Committee, in the presi 
dential campaign of 1860, to speak with William H. Seward on a joint 
stumping tour through the Northwest. Senator Nye became a great 
admirer of Mr. Hamlin, in consequence of their association in the 
campaign of 1856. The following story is told by Charles E. Bliss, 
who was Mr. Hamlin s neighbor and personal friend for many years, 
and is well known in Maine as the superintendent of the Western 
Union Telegraph Company in Bangor, and also as postmaster of that 
city. Mr. Bliss said : 

" Senator Nye came into the telegraph office a few days before the 
end of the campaign, and after sending off some dispatches, broke out 
of his own accord about the campaign. He was full of it and bub- 


bling with enthusiasm over Mr. Hamlin. What a wonderful man 
Hannibal Hamlin is, said he, what a great man ! He is unique. 
He is the most effective stump orator in the United States to-day. 
The people believe everything he says, that s the point, they 
believe everything he says. I never saw a man with his power among 
the masses. " 

The Democrats made a stubborn fight and contested every inch of 
the ground. They not only had the help of able Maine men, such 
as Governor Wells, Nathan Clifford, George F. Shepley, ex-Senator 
Bradbury, and others, but they also had the assistance of Judah P. 
Benjamin, Howell Cobb, and other leaders of national reputation. 
Benjamin, who was then a senator from Louisiana, had a Mephisto- 
phelian cast of countenance. At Portland he made a crafty speech 
in which he pooh-poohed the Kansas outrages, and belittled the trou 
bles as purely local affairs. But he showed the cloven foot when he 
threatened that the South would secede if it should not be allowed to 
carry slavery into the new territories. This was held over Northern 
heads as an alternative proposition, and probably frightened thou 
sands of conserative men into voting for Buchanan. Howell Cobb, 
jovial and with an air of good-fellowship, also laughed at the "slavery 
bugbear." At Portland, on August 10, he spoke of Mr. Hamlin in this 
apparently disingenuous way : "I do not like to say anything about 
my friend Hamlin. I have been trying for ten years to keep him 
straight, and he has been the hardest man I ever had to deal with. I 
have talked to him like a brother ; but that Herculean task of keep 
ing friend Hamlin straight is reserved for somebody else. Perhaps 
these Black Republicans will try their hands on him." 1 

A few days before the election, the Free-Soil newspapers claimed that 
a large corruption fund had been raised by the federal office-holders 
with which to flood Maine. The " New York Tribune " charged, on 
July 30, that the Democratic National Committee at Washington had 
contributed $15,000 to defeat Mr. Hamlin, and that that fund was to 
be increased by the levying of assessments on office-holders in Maine. 
The " New York Evening Post " the night before election charged 
that the corruption fund had been swelled to $100,000. It is certain 
that if the pro-slavery Democracy would pooh-pooh the civil war in 
Kansas, they would not stop at a little thing like buying votes if they 
could find any to buy. The shrieks of their newspapers in Maine now 
furnish amusing reading ; their distress is plain. Here is the final 
appeal the " Argus " made on September 6 : 

" Will any man who loves his Bible and his God give his sanction and 
approval of the Republican doctrine promulgated by Anson Burlingame, 
that the times demand, and we must have, an anti-slavery Constitution, an 
1 Eastern Argus, August 11, 1856. 


anti-slavery Bible, and an anti-slavery God, by voting for Hannibal Ham- 
lin ? We trust not. We have reason to hope better things for those who 
call themselves the children of God." 

That the Pierce administration sought in every way to defeat the 
Republicans is certain. One incident related by Josiah H. Drum- 
mond shows how the government machine was used to embarrass the 
Republicans, and how they were forced to checkmate it by their own 
efforts. Mr. Drummond was then a young lawyer living at Water- 
ville. He was elected to the legislature that fall, became speaker of 
the House the next year, and entered the Senate in 1860, to be elected 
attorney-general of Maine. He has since taken a high rank at the 
Cumberland bar, and has supported Mr. Hamlin in many a notable 
contest. Mr. Drummond said : 

" We soon learned that the Democracy would contest every inch of the 
ground by fair means or foul. We wasted no time in meeting the emer 
gency. For example, I learned that the Pierce postmasters were prevent 
ing Republican newspapers from being circulated. I left my law office, 
hired a cart, filled it with bundles of Republican newspapers, and started 
off at a gallop for the neighboring country towns. When I reached a town 
I would pull off my coat and shout to the crowd, Do you want any Repub 
lican newspapers? How they would shout, Yes! yes, yes! and flock 
around the cart ! Then I would ask them if they wanted a speech. The 
Saturday before the election I drove sixty miles, and spoke in all six hours. 
But the excitement buoyed me up. The very air seemed like champagne. 
There never was a campaign like it in the country." 

The Democracy was blind to the last to the signs of revolt in the 
air. The day of the election, Governor Wells predicted, in the pre 
sence of a friend of Mr. Drummond, that he would be elected over 
Mr. Hamlin by a majority of 10,000 votes. Mr. Drummond gave a 
vivid idea of the intense excitement and wave of jubilation that swept 
over the State : 

" We rushed to the telegraph station at Waterville, as eager for news as 
if a war was being fought. The telegrapher sat laughing. He was a Re 
publican. What are you laughing at? we shouted. Oh, said he, just 
hear the wires buzz with great news. We did not know a telegrapher could 
tell the news as it was sent over the wires, and there was a chorus of Non 
sense ! But he laughed away. There goes a message from Unity : 
" Glory to God ! Hamlin has carried the State by a whirlwind majority ! " 
Here comes one from Dexter: "Hallelujah! Freedom carries the day. 
Hamlin wins." We made him have the messages repeated in the Water 
ville office over his machine, and while they were coming it was a moment 
of delicious agony. But it was worth waiting for." 

In Bangor, as well as in every other part of the State, the Repub 
licans scented victory in the air, and as the time approached for the 


returns to come in, by a common impulse they rushed to Norumbega 
Hall. Every seat was taken out, and the place was jammed with 
a palpitating mass of humanity. One who took an active interest in 
the occasion was John L. Crosby, a leading citizen of Bangor and 
long its city treasurer. His account of the scene is as follows : 

" Mr. Hamlin was the great commoner of Maine, and his personal canvass 
of the State met with an unprecedented reception. Yet it was difficult for 
either friends or foes to measure the extent of the revolution in the State. 
One of the most brilliant journalists ever connected with the Bangor press, 
a week before the election, appealed to the demoralized and motley opposi 
tion : Let us make one more allied effort, and the sullen retreat of the 
Hamlin hosts, already begun, will become a complete rout. On election 
night I joined the throng going to Norumbega, when some one thrust his 
arm through mine and said, * Come, John, let s go see the boys ! It was 
Mr. Hamlin, who had just driven up post haste from Hampden to hear the 
news. He was filled with excitement, but even then he remembered to ask 
me something that was on his mind. Said he, What s that verse about 
" Sound the loud timbrel " ? I hastily recalled the lines, and then he sprang 
through the cheering crowd on the stage, to be met with the most over 
whelming welcome I had ever witnessed. When the glad uproar of thou 
sands had ceased from sheer exhaustion, Mr. Hamlin lifted his arms, and 
in his ringing, clear voice recited Tom Moore s lines : 

4 Sound the loud timbrel o er Egypt s dark sea ! 
Jehovah has triumphed, his people are free. 

" Never, I am sure, since * Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea 
shore, and Moses sang this song of triumph over the oppressors of his race, 
had the words been more fittingly spoken. The scene formed an unfading 
picture in the memory of those who saw it and heard it all." 

By midnight it was known that the Republican minority of 8000 
votes the year before, had been turned into a Republican majority of 
18,000; and finally, that Hannibal Hamlin had been chosen governor 
by an unprecedented plurality of more than 25,000 votes. Jehovah 
had spoken and Maine was free. 

The revolution in Maine caused the greatest jubilation among the 
Republicans, and consternation among the Democrats, throughout the 
country. It was unexpected, and the followers of Fremont thought 
that they already saw the dawn of a better day. But that was not yet 
come, though the light was piercing the clouds. In carrying eleven 
States, and throwing 1,341,264 votes for Fremont and Dayton, against 
1,838,162 for Buchanan, and 874,534 for Fillmore, the Know-Nothing 
candidate, the young and undisciplined Republican party accomplished 
a result of which it might well be proud. Freedom or slavery in the 
territories was clearly the issue, and in the first trial the party of 
slavery was in an actual minority of nearly 400,000 votes, though it 


had retained control of the government. The Republicans claimed 
that they had won a moral victory, and that the future was bright. 
Senator Fessenden wrote Mr. Hamlin : " We have fought and lost, 
but we have a noble party and a future before us." And Mr. Hamlin 
responded, " Amen ! " 

The closing incident of personal interest in Mr. Hamlin s career of 
this period was his marriage to Ellen V. Emery, the youngest daughter 
of Judge Stephen Emery, and a half sister of his first wife. The 
wedding took place at Paris Hill, Mr. Hamlin s old home, on Sep 
tember 25. 



WHEN Mr. Hamlin became governor of Maine, it was well under 
stood that he would be returned to the Senate as soon as the legisla 
ture was called on to act. The election of Buchanan had settled 
one thing, and that was that the agitation over slavery was bound to 
continue. The final acts of the wretched weathercock who was still 
President his declaration one day that he had no power to stop the 
outrages in Kansas, his order the next for troops to proceed to the 
scenes of disorder ; his tearful assertions that he believed the troubles 
were local in nature ; his consistent removal of honest men from the 
governorship of that territory who would not sanction the hideous 
crimes perpetrated there were plain evidence of the pressure the 
slave power would put on its new tool as soon as he entered the 
presidency. The whole programme of infamy, which united the gov 
ernment and Border Ruffians in a conspiracy to force slavery into 
Kansas by flooding the territory with cutthroats and United States 
soldiers, to stuff ballot-boxes, to intimidate citizens, to set up a fraudu 
lent legislature, enforce their barbarous laws, burn towns, drive away 
Free-Soil men, and even shoot them down, this was to continue 
under Buchanan. Events made Mr. Hamlin the logical choice of his 
party for the Senate. He was an anti-slavery leader of long experi 
ence, and knew how to fight the enemy. Thus Mr. Hamlin s admin 
istration as governor of Maine was only an episode in his life, and 
may be briefly related. 

He was inaugurated on January 8, 1857. The ceremony was sim 
ple. The address was a clear and comparatively short discussion of 
national and state topics. In speaking of the presidential election, 
Governor Hamlin said that the result foretold with "unerring cer 
tainty the ultimate triumph of the great principles for which the Re- 
publican party had struggled." In tracing the early history of the 
government to demonstrate that its fathers designed it should be one 
of freedom and not of slavery, he declared that it was " time for all 
who desire to restore the government to what it was under Wash 
ington and Jefferson to unite with undivided ranks for that purpose." 
In foreshadowing the intention of the incoming Buchanan adminis 
tration to extend slavery, Governor Hamlin asserted that it was the 


duty of the Republican party " to maintain the right of freedom by 
opposing in every legal mode the extension of slavery over the territory 
of the United States, and by persevering in that effort firmly and con 
sistently to the end." In depicting the "deplorable spectacle" pre 
sented in Kansas which made "free government " a "miserable mock 
ery," Governor Hamlin said that the existing state of affairs "furnishes 
only a true exhibition of what results from attempts to establish and 
extend slavery ;" and in connection with this he urged Maine to ap 
propriate a liberal sum to aid those of her citizens who had gone to 
Kansas to extend civilization and might be in need of the necessities 
of life. 

Another subject of interest Governor Hamlin considered in his 
address was the cultivation of agriculture with reference to the de 
sirability of "teaching agricultural chemistry in the schools," or "of 
endowing some of the existing literary institutions of the State" for 
that purpose. He felt the need of providing the youth of the State, 
who could not or did not desire to take a course of study at a classical 
college, opportunity of pursuing a practical and liberal course of edu 
cation which would fit them for the actual duties of life. He believed 
that the State should interest itself in this institution, to raise the level 
of intelligence, and also, as he urged at this time, because " a wise sys 
tem which shall develop our agricultural resources will tend to check 
the great emigration of our citizens to other sections," that is, he wanted 
to keep Maine s young men at home. At this time, it should be re 
membered, the project was being discussed out of which came the 
American college of agricultural and mechanical arts. Mr. Hamlin 
followed this institution from its inception to its realization, and it had 
few stronger friends than he. Another chapter is devoted to this 
subject ; the incident introduced in his inaugural address is referred 
to and explained only to show how he was thinking with regard to this 
college long before it was established. 

Another point in the address of importance to the history of Maine 
was Governor Hamlin s reference to the removal of Woodbury Davis l 
from the Supreme Judicial Court. Judge Davis would not, at the 
behest of the Wells administration, render a decision in favor of a 
pro-slavery candidate for sheriff. This was one of the issues of the 
state campaign, and it cost Mr. Wells many votes. Mr. Davis s re 
moval was an outrage on the judiciary. To quote Governor Hamlin : 
" At the last session of the legislature, one of the justices of the 
Supreme Court was arbitrarily, if not unconstitutionally removed by 
address. In the opinion of the best legal minds of the State, the act 
was entirely unconstitutional. Whether so or not, it was at least con- 

1 This was a celebrated case. Rufus Choate made the argument for Judge 


fessedly predicated upon an error of judgment, honestly exercised in 
the discharge of official duty, upon a matter of indisputable jurisdic 
tion. ... If for such a cause a judicial officer may be removed in the 
malice or madness of party organization, where is the independence 
of the judiciary, and what can it become but the mere instrument of 
party ? " Perhaps the most important act of Governor Hamlin s ad 
ministration was his restoration of Judge Davis to the bench, upon 
which the latter remained until 1865, when he voluntarily retired. 

The record of Mr. Hamlin s administration would not be complete 
without a reference to the council and legislature which were brought 
into power at this time, and were the first exponents of pure Repub 
licanism to hold these positions. A partial list will indicate the kind 
of men these stirring times brought to the front in politics in Maine. 
In the council were Abner Coburn, of Skowhegan, who was subse 
quently one of the war governors of Maine, and a noted philanthro 
pist ; Benjamin F. Eastman, of Strong, a founder of the Republican 
party in this State, and a lifelong friend of Mr. Hamlin ; J. S. Mon 
roe, for many years probate judge of Piscataquis County, and another 
personal friend of the governor ; and Nathaniel A. Joy, an active 
leader of Ellsworth. The changed conditions of political affairs was 
reflected in the Senate, which had twenty-nine Republicans and one 
Democrat. To paraphrase Dr. Holmes, fate conspired to save this 
lone representative of his party from obscurity by naming him Smith. 1 
The president of the Senate was Joseph H. Williams, of Augusta, a 
man of decided ability and scholarly attainments. He succeeded Mr. 
Hamlin as governor, and served with credit to himself and the State. 
Lyndon Oak, of Garland, was a conspicuous anti-slavery leader and 
one of the cleanest and most useful legislators Maine ever produced. 
William R. Hersey, of Lincoln, was one of the Hamlin guard in the 
senatorial fight of 1850. Wyer G. Sargent and Samuel W T asson were 
representative men of Hancock County. Charles P. Chandler was a 
typical anti-slavery man of Piscataquis. Enoch W. Woodbury, of 
Bethel, was a leader of prominence in his district. William Connor, 
of Fairfield, father of Selden Connor, a distinguished soldier and 
later governor of Maine, was one of the Whigs who united with 
the anti-slavery Democrats in 1856. 

The House had one hundred and fifteen Republicans and twenty- 
one Democrats. Charles A. Spofford, a brilliant lawyer of Deer Isle, 
was speaker. Among the leading members were Thomas A. Deblois, 
of Portland, one of Mr. Hamlin s strongest friends and a leading law 
yer of the State ; Josiah H. Drummond, then of Waterville, whose 

1 Mr. Smith used to issue calls for a Democratic senatorial caucus, and act as 
the caucus and presiding officer. He was truly the captain and crew of the Dem 
ocratic " Nancy Jane." 


record in this House made him speaker of the next ; General Samuel 
F. Hersey, of Bangor, who was then one of the principal lumbermen 
of the State and afterwards of the country, and a personal friend of 
the governor ; William T. Johnson, the former editor of the " Augusta 
Age " when it was an anti-slavery newspaper, and another member of 
the anti-slavery guard of 1850; Charles Danforth, of Gardiner, who 
was subsequently for many years a member of the Supreme Court of 
the State ; Nathaniel C. Deering, of Hampden, who afterwards served 
in Congress from Iowa, and was another lifelong friend of Mr. Ham- 
lin ; Seth L. Milliken, then of Camden, who represented the Belfast 
district in Congress for ten years with ability ; W. C. Hammatt, a 
former Whig and collector of the port of Bangor, and a close friend of 
Governor Hamlin ; N. G. Hichborn, of Stockton, who later was the 
state treasurer ; Parker P. Burleigh, land agent of the State ; Theodore 
C. Woodman, of Bucksport, whose name was a synonym for integrity ; 
Jeremiah Tolman, of Rockland, a trusted leader in the Senate cam 
paign of 1850; Samuel H. Allen, of Thomaston ; Isaac C. Kimball, 
of Bethel ; Samuel H. Houghton, of Greenwood ; Josiah L. Hobbs, 
of Waterford ; Samuel P. Strickland, of Bangor ; Solomon Dunning, of 
Charleston ; Josiah Crosby, of Dexter, and others, who all helped estab 
lish the Republican party in Maine, and are entitled to remembrance 
on that account. 

The same week Mr. Hamlin became governor of Maine, the Repub 
lican legislators nominated him for another term in the Senate. There 
were some who were of the opinion that it might be better for Mr. 
Hamlin to remain in Maine for a few years at the head of his party, to 
strengthen it during the Buchanan administration. Mr. Deblois made 
a powerful speech in the caucus exposing the sophistry of this argu 
ment, and showing that the prestige which he gained in the campaign 
of 1856 would strengthen his standing and influence as a national 
leader. Lot M. Morrill was one of the leaders who urged Mr. Ham 
lin to take the nomination for governor, and said that he should be 
returned to the Senate if he desired ; yet to Mr. Hamlin s surprise, 
Mr. Morrill, notwithstanding his course of action, allowed his name to 
be presented as a candidate. But the sentiment was so strong in 
favor of Mr. Hamlin that there was no contest worth recording. 
This was the first time, by the way, when Mr. Hamlin had been a 
candidate for the Senate that his party machinery was not arrayed 
against him. His most brilliant campaigns were won against the 
machine. He resigned the governorship on February 26, and on 
March 4, 1857, the same day on which James Buchanan entered 
the presidency, resumed his seat in the Senate. 

And now the die was cast. In his first message to Congress Mr. 
Buchanan asserted that the slavery troubles were over, placed the 


blame of the agitation on the clergy, announced himself in favor of a 
constitution agreeable to the majority of the people of Kansas, and 
seriously compromised the Supreme Court by virtually pledging it to 
deliver an opinion in the near future that^would finally remove the 
slavery issue from the realms of political action. Mr. Buchanan s 
hint at the forthcoming opinion of the Supreme Court was based on 
positive knowledge. In a few days Chief Justice Taney handed down 
his now historic deliverance on the Dred Scott case. The essence of 
this was that the negro could not become a citizen because he was a 
chattel, that Congress had no right to interfere with slavery in the 
territories, and finally that the Missouri Compromise was an uncon 
stitutional measure, and its repeal justified. This opinion was re 
garded as obiter dicta, in part, but it was substantially concurred in 
by a majority of the justices, though strong dissents were taken by 
Justices McLean and Curtis. The action of the court was an appar 
ent triumph for the slave power. The plot Mr. Hamlin exposed in 
his first speech in the Senate, by revealing the meaning of the Clay 
ton compromise bill, had at last borne fruit. The slave power had 
succeeded in bringing to its aid the highest tribunal in the land. 
The purport of the court s deliverance was that slavery was the 
organic law of the country; and thus fortified by the judiciary and 
supported by Congress, President Buchanan entered on the last act 
of the damnable conspiracy to force slavery into the lives of the free 
Northern people, Kansas being his first objective point. 

Under these circumstances Congress gathered in December. 
Although the slave power now controlled both branches of Congress, 
the executive, and the judiciary, it could not control the consciences 
and hearts of the men in the Senate and the House who represented 
the Republican party. The day of the cowardly "dough-face" was 
passing away ; the day of the representative anti-slavery man of the 
North was dawning. On the other hand, the power of the conservative 
Southern statesman was gone. The word of the aggressive pro-sla 
very leader was the law of the new South. The changed condition 
of affairs was reflected in this Congress. The Republican wave had 
swept into the Senate and House men whose names are now his 
toric, and had carried into private life others who had been towers of 
strength to the slave party. For the first time in the existence of the 
republic since slavery had become a political issue, there were two 
political parties in Congress that drew their lines entirely on this 
question. Not since the days of the Revolution had there been gath 
ered together groups of American leaders who possessed so marked 
individualities, or who exerted so much personal influence among the 
masses, or stood for such widely antagonistic principles, as the prin 
cipal senators and representatives in this Congress. The names of 


many will endure as long as memory preserves the scenes in which 
they figured. 

The Senate had sixty-two members, of whom twenty were Repub 
licans, as against half a dozen before the repeal of the Missouri Com 
promise. The Republicans were Hannibal Hamlin and William Pitt 
Fessenden, of Maine ; Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson, of Massa 
chusetts ; John P. Hale and Daniel Clark, of New Hampshire ; Jacob 
Collamer and Solomon Foot, of Vermont ; Lafayette S. Foster and 
James Dixon, of Connecticut ; James F. Simmons, of Rhode Island ; 
William H. Seward and Preston King, of New York ; Simon Cam 
eron, of Pennsylvania; Benjamin F. Wade, of Ohio; Lyman Trum- 
bull, of Illinois ; Zachariah Chandler, of Michigan ; Charles Durkee 
and James R. Doolittle, of Wisconsin ; and James Harlan, of Iowa. 
Seward was the leading spokesman ; Fessenden the keenest debater ; 
Chandler the rough Jupiter Tonans ; Sumner the anti-slavery knight ; 
Hale the free lance ; Trumbull a sharp blade ; Collamer was a con 
stitutional authority ; Wade a fighter ; King weighty in council ; 
Wilson an outspoken commoner ; Clark a sound adviser ; Cameron 
the great political manager of his day. Senator Hamlin s chosen 
associates at this time were Chandler, Wade, Cameron, and Clark. 
His friendship for Chandler, Wade, and Cameron extended over a 
period of many years. They were more than once called the four 
old guardsmen of the Republican senators of this time. They were 
unique men, and the story of their friendship is an unique and inter 
esting record. 

The entrance of Chandler, Trumbull, Doolittle, and Durkee into 
the Senate signalized the downfall of Hunkerism in the great North 
west. Chandler himself dethroned the king of the Northern Hunkers, 
General Cass, and Michigan was now a permanent Republican State. 
No man in the Senate better embodied the resolute, aggressive, and 
progressive Republican spirit of the Northwest than Zach Chandler, as 
the great senator from Michigan was familiarly known. He made 
himself felt the first day he took his seat in the Senate, and the little 
group of Republicans knew that a champion after their own hearts 
had come among them. At the outset Chandler and Senator Hamlin 
conceived a strong liking for each other. There was much in com 
mon between the two. Both were New England Yankees, men of 
the people, and they were equally ardent in their attachment to the 
Union and hatred of slavery. Chandler was a giant in every sense of 
the word. In point of resolute leadership, personal courage, and abil 
ity to sway the masses by sheer strength of individuality, Chandler 
certainly had no superior in his day and who was his equal? In 
the Senate he was an immense force. In debating he used the short 
sword, in speechmaking the sledge hammer. From now on until 


the end of his public career, Mr. Hamlin held no associate in closer 
intimacy or in more affectionate regard than Zach Chandler, with 
the exception of Lincoln, who always had the first place in his 
heart. % 

The new South had abler men in the Senate than in the House. 
The most prominent were Jefferson Davis, Robert Toombs, R. M. T. 
Hunter, James M. Mason, Judah P. Benjamin, John Slidell, David L. 
Yulee, Stephen R. Mallory, Trusten Polk, Clement C. Clay, Jr., 
Alfred Iverson, Benjamin Fitzpatrick, Albert G. Brown, and James 
H. Hammond, who were all identified with the Southern Confederacy. 
They were bold unto that degree of rashness expressed in the pro 
verb, "Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad." Doug 
las was the leader of the decimated Northern Democracy. David C. 
Broderick, of California, a man of romantic career and great possibil 
ities of leadership, was his right-hand supporter. George E. Pugh, 
of Ohio ; William Bigler, of Pennsylvania, and Jesse D. Bright, of 
Indiana, were Buchanan sympathizers. Sam Houston and Andrew 
Johnson were Southern Union Democrats. John J. Crittenden, of 
Kentucky, and John Bell, of Tennessee, were also now opposed to 
the slave power, and were the sole representatives of the Southern 
conservative Whig party in the Senate. James A. Bayard, of Dela 
ware, appeared to be "on the fence." John C. Breckinridge, the 
Vice- President, was a tall Kentuckian, with the bearing of a Scottish 
chieftain, and was distinguished for his interesting personality, charm 
of manner, and sense of personal honor rather than for intellectual 
strength. He was only thirty-five, the youngest man yet elected Vice- 

In the House there were a few more than eighty Republicans, 
whose superior courage and ability often enabled them to defeat a 
less well equipped majority. John Sherman, whose services as a 
statesman are to be ranked with the military achievements of William 
T. Sherman, his brother, began his national career in the preceding 
Congress. A powerful leader was Elihu B. Washburne, 1 of Illinois, tall, 
strongly built, genial in manner, and afterwards famous as the watch 
dog of the Treasury and father of the House. Israel Washburn, Jr., 
of Maine, Cadwallader C. Washburn, of Wisconsin, were brothers of 
Elihu, and men of great ability. Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont, author 
of the Morrill tariff, father of the American college of agricultural 
and mechanical arts, and later dean of the Senate, also entered on 
his long and useful career with this Congress. Another coming 
statesman, with an honorable record before him, was Henry L. Dawes, 
one of the most practical and upright men Massachusetts ever sent 

1 Elihu was the only one of the brothers who spelled the family name with the 
final e. 


to the Senate. Anson Burlingame, the diplomat, was a forceful fig 
ure in this House. Galusha A. Grow was to be speaker of the next 
House, the first Republican to hold that office. Schuyler Colfax was 
a coming speaker and Vice-President. Reuben E. Fenton was a 
future governor and senator of New York, and so was Edwin B. Mor 
gan. John A. Bingham, of Ohio, was a keen blade, whose flashes 
were worthy of William Pinkney. Francis P. Blair, Jr., was making 
himself felt in Missouri. Joshua R. Giddings, Owen Lovejoy, Na 
thaniel P. Banks, were among the older members. John Fox Potter, 
of Wisconsin, and a native of Maine, was a high-spirited Yankee, who 
named bowie knives as weapons of his choice when challenged by 
Roger A. Pryor to fight a duel. Another interesting Yankee was 
Eli Thayer, of Massachusetts, who organized the New England Emi 
grant Aid Company, to send men to Kansas to populate it with 
defenders of freedom. Freeman H. Morse, Stephen C. Foster, 
Charles J. Gilman, John M. Wood, and Nehemiah Abbott were other 
members from Maine. Henry Winter Davis, of Maryland, was the 
brilliant intellectual figure of this House. 

Among the Democrats were some men of note. James L. Orr, of 
South Carolina, the speaker, was one of the first of the Confederate 
leaders to accept the result of the war and aid the Republican party 
to reconstruct the South. George H. Pendleton was a man of charm 
ing personality, and represented Ohio in the Senate with dignity and 
ability. He was also a defeated candidate for Vice-President on the 
ticket with McClellan in 1864. William H. English, of Indiana, was 
another Democratic aspirant for the vice-presidency, and was beaten 
in 1880. Lucius Q. C. Lamar, of Mississippi, was a man of great 
personal worth and scholarship, though of mistaken political convic 
tions. The same might be said of J. L. M. Curry, of Alabama, a 
Confederate soldier, and subsequently an educator of note and our 
minister to Spain. S. S. Cox, then of Ohio, affectionately known as 
Sunset Cox, was now recognized as a genial wit. William S. Groes- 
beck, of the same State, was a lawyer of national reputation, and was 
later one of the counsel for Andrew Johnson in his impeachment 
trial. Among the extremists were Thomas L. Clingman, Lawrence 
M. Keitt, William Barksdale, Humphrey Marshall, and others iden 
tified with the Confederacy. John Hickman and Henry Chapman, 
of Pennsylvania, and Horace F. Clark and John B. Haskin, of New 
York, were a small group known as anti-Nebraska Democrats. Daniel 
E. Sickles was one of the pro-slavery Democrats who attained distinc 
tion in the Union army after the appeal to arms was made. Isaac I. 
Stevens, delegate from Washington Territory, and a native of Massa 
chusetts, was another pro-slavery Democrat of the same kind. His 
great ability as a fighter he was a West-Pointer led his superior 


officers to expect him to make a brilliant record ; but he was killed in 
the battle of Chantilly, at the same time Kearny lost his life. John 
Kelly, the subsequent " boss " of Tammany Hall, was another interest 
ing Democrat in this House. ^ 

In returning to the Senate as a Republican, Mr. Hamlin was placed 
in necessarily antagonistic political relations with his Democratic col 
leagues, with whom he had cooperated on all issues save that of 
slavery. When a distinguished political leader leaves a party with 
which he has long been identified, he and his friends speedily learn 
the true estimate that his former associates placed on him. This 
occasion furnished an interesting opportunity to judge of Mr. Ham- 
lin s personal status among the leaders of the Democracy who cor 
rectly understood him. Among men of this kind, Mr. Hamlin s 
change of party made no difference in the personal or official rela 
tions they had sustained with him. While they regretted his depar 
ture from the Democracy, they recognized and conceded that his 
motives were pure and that his course was entirely logical. On this 
point Hugh J. Anderson may be quoted. He had been a congress 
man from Maine, governor of the State, and now held the important 
position of commissioner of customs of the Treasury Department. 
He was always a Democrat. When Mr. Hamlin reentered the Senate 
some Democrats, who did not know him personally, denounced him 
severely for leaving their party. Governor Anderson stopped them, 
saying, " You would not speak thus of Mr. Hamlin if you knew him. 
He is an absolutely sincere and honest man. He follows the dictates 
of his own conscience, and did he not have that right ? " 

Another view of Mr. Hamlin s personal status in the Senate, and 
the explanation of his strength among those who differed from him 
politically, was furnished by Henry L. Dawes, his personal friend 
and party associate in Congress for a period of nearly forty years. 
He wrote of Mr. Hamlin s personal qualities, in part, as follows : 
" Never losing that plain, simple, unaffected manner which belonged 
to the life his father had lived before him, he nevertheless acquired 
an ease, almost reaching gracefulness, in his intercourse with men 
and women, which came to be quite charming. He was a true 
gentleman, . . . one that every one recognized had no alloy in his 
composition, nothing but genuine sincerity in the hand he offered. 
. . . His conversation was piquant, crisp, and pungent, but there 
never was any sting in it. ... Mr. Hamlin made no pretension to 
oratory, but nevertheless he was a debater of uncommon force and 
skill. He was distinguished for the cleverness and directness of his 
statement. His style was terse and crisp, with a good deal of the 
Yankee in the quaintness and aptness in putting things. His long 
service and absolute integrity added great weight to his opinions and 


judgment. He, however, spoke rarely; but in all legislative business 
of far more importance at all times than oratory he ranked 
among the first, and as a political adviser he was a leader. He was 
the soul of honor, as well in his private relations and public duties, 
as well in all political transactions. He was from the beginning a 
Democrat, and remained throughout life a Democrat, in every pulse 
and impulse." l 

In connection with this subject, an incident may be related that 
happened at this time, and illustrated Mr. Hamlin s personal strength 
with his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. But first some words 
of Charles Levi Woodbury, a lifelong leader of the Massachusetts 
Democracy, should be quoted : " I knew Mr. Hamlin very soon after 
he entered Congress. But in the House and the Senate he had a 
personal influence independent of his political views, due greatly to 
his obliging kindness to his compeers in matters not of political 
principles, and his fidelity to his engagements." The incident is in 
dependent of this, but Mr. Woodbury, being a party supporter of 
Buchanan and a constant visitor at Washington, knew Mr. Hamlin s 
power in the Senate. There were four Democrats from Maine to 
whom Mr. Buchanan professed great indebtedness for the work they 
accomplished in bringing the Maine delegation to his support when 
he was nominated. They visited him at his home before the Cincin 
nati convention, and said they were unpledged. After Mr. Buchanan 
became President he bestowed national offices on three, one being 
one of the highest in his gift. The fourth he nominated for the posi 
tion of commissioner of customs, to succeed Governor Anderson, and 
made this a personal issue with the Senate for confirmation. He 
need not be named. To quote Mr. Hamlin s words, in a letter to 
Senator Fessenden, "he was an unmitigated scoundrel." But his 
ability in buying votes, and fighting anti-slavery candidates for the 
Senate and the House, glossed his sins in the eyes of his party. Mr. 
Hamlin s word that this fellow was corrupt induced the Senate, a 
Buchanan body, to reject the nomination by a vote of more than 
two to one. Mr. Buchanan proved his loyalty to this man by appoint 
ing him to an office to which no confirmation was necessary. 

Before dismissing this subject, it must be added that Senator Ham 
lin continued to take a prominent part in shaping practical legislation 
during the remainder of the ante-bellum period. In fact, the evidence 
of the " Congressional Record " would seem to indicate that while he 
was no longer the head of an important committee, he appeared to 
exert the same marked influence in the transaction of public affairs 

1 See "Two Vice-Presldents," in the Century Magazine, July, 1895, by Henry 
L. Dawes, member of the House from Massachusetts from 1857 to 1873, an <l 
senator from 1875 to 1891. 


that he wielded when he was in sympathy with the Democracy. He 
advocated precisely the same principles he had advocated since he 
entered Congress, economy and honesty in the transaction of public 
business, the national idea of government, and the liberty of the indi 
vidual as exemplified in the right of the people of the free States and 
territories to exclude slavery from their homes. These creeds were 
the basis of the pure Jeffersonian Democracy as enunciated and 
practiced by its illustrious author. Mr. Hamlin did not change his 
principles one whit, he was even then, and for years afterwards, 
a believer in the low-tariff idea ; in fact, he used to say wittily : 
"I did not leave the Democracy ; it was the Democracy that left 
me." But now with this brief analysis of Mr. Hamlin s position in 
the Senate, the narrative returns to the striking incidents in his life 
at this juncture. 1 

The slave party even grudged the Republicans their fair represen 
tation on the congressional committees, and the Senate was promptly 
organized in its interests. Mr. Hamlin s status among his Republican 
colleagues was established by their act in choosing him as their candi 
date for president pro tempore of the Senate, on account of his know 
ledge of parliamentary procedure, and he received his party s vote. 
But Benjamin Fitzpatrick was elected. The probable formation of 
the Senate committees was announced in March, when there was a 
protest made by Mr. Hamlin, Mr. Fessenden, Mr. Chandler, and 
other Republicans, at the unfair allotments of positions. When the 
Senate was organized in December, it was found that this protest had 
been unheeded, and Mr. Hamlin, on behalf of the Northern senators, 
made a rather sharp speech on December 16, charging the majority 
with having given an "unjust, disproportionate, and sectional cast" 
to the committees. He called attention to the fact that while it was 
conceded that the majority party had a right to control the business 
of the Senate, yet the principal committees were all in the hands of 
the South, and the business needs and rights of some of the largest 
Northern States were unrepresented. The proportion was thirteen 
committees for the South, and six for the North, although it had more 
representatives in the Senate than the South. This was to enable 
the South to establish the policy of the country at home and abroad, 
and it was a "fact pregnant with mischief." "The executive and 
judicial departments are now at the foot of the slave power." 

1 The limitations of space forbid even a summary of various legislative mea 
sures which Mr. Hamlin conducted, or interested himself in, during this period. 
One, however, must be mentioned. This was the movement to provide settlers 
in the West with land. Mr. Hamlin always favored the principle involved. The 
pro-slavery party opposed it, and President Buchanan vetoed a homestead bill. 
Mr. Hamlin opposed one bill on account of stock-jobbing features, but always 
favored the principle of the plan. See New York Tribune, September 19, 1860. 


Mr. Hamlin could not enter into a discussion of personal details, 
but it is worth while recording that Mason and Slidell, the subsequent 
Confederate ambassadors to England, were at the head of the Com 
mittee on Foreign Affairs, while Seward was at the foot. Jefferson 
Davis, the coming president of the Confederacy, was chairman of the 
Committee on Military Affairs, and he was flanked by other worthies 
who sympathized with him, one being Iverson, of Georgia, who was 
one of his major-generals ; Henry Wilson and Preston King were at 
the foot of this body. Stephen R. Mallory, secretary of the Con 
federate navy, was chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs ; 
John P. Hale was at the tail end. James A. Bayard, of Delaware, 
was at the head of the Judiciary Committee, with Pugh, of Ohio, a 
man of the same kind, and Toombs and others supporting him, while 
Collamer and Trumbull, the ablest constitutional lawyers in the Sen 
ate, were at the foot. Clement C. Clay, Jr., of Alabama, the whimsi 
cal statesman who used to obstruct the business of the Committee 
on Commerce, was now elected chairman, and Mr. Hamlin degraded 
to the last place. The Northern interests that were ignored cannot 
be briefly summarized. A few may be specified. The great North 
west, with its immense lake and river system, as Mr. Hamlin pointed 
out, had no representative on the Committee on Commerce. The 
Committee on Patents was largely dominated by the South, though, 
as Mr. Hamlin said, fourth fifths, if not nine tenths of American 
inventive genius and enterprise came from the North. But this pal 
pable outrage was carried out by a strict party vote. 

This was plainly a step the slave party took to get the Senate com 
pletely in its clutches in order that it might legislate the peculiar 
institution into Kansas as soon as possible. The necessary prelimi 
nary measures had already been taken by the pro-slavery allies in the 
territory. The legislature the Border Ruffians had set up by force 
and fraud called a convention at Lecompton, which drew up a con 
stitution with a trap in it. The people were not permitted to vote for 
or against this constitution, but their action was restricted to voting 
whether they would accept the constitution with or without slavery. 
The trap was that if they voted against the slavery clause, there was 
a provision, on which they were not allowed to vote, that prohibited 
the exclusion of slavery from Kansas until 1 864. Naturally the Free- 
Soilers refused to take notice of this act by the fraudulent legisla 
ture ; action on their part would have given an apparent sanction to 
the existence of that bogus body. They did not vote, but the Border 
Ruffians did, and in some instances thousands more ballots were 
returned than there were inhabitants. Though this fraud was as 
plain as daylight, the complaisant Buchanan defended the Lecompton 
constitution, and in his message to Congress charged the people of 


Kansas who had refused to vote on it with being in rebellion ! Mr. 
Hamlin had taken the right measure of this man. 

Of what avail now was Mr. Buchanan s assertion that " the slavery 
troubles were over " ? He was mistrusted equally with his party 
that had prated of the "finality " of the compromise measures of 1850, 
and yet had broken down the Missouri Compromise. Benton, the 
last of the Jackson Romans, who had voted for Buchanan, now re 
pudiated him, and with almost his dying breath sustained the Repub 
licans in their opposition to the President. 1 Even Douglas revolted, 
and the doctrine of squatter sovereignty was but a mere ghost in 
the theatre of political action. Thousands of Democrats refused to 
accept this monstrous test of party fealty, and joined the Republicans. 
Yet, in spite of this protest against the Lecompton outrage, the reck 
less slave party continued in its mad effort to force the Lecompton 
constitution through Congress. The speeches of the pro-slavery 
leaders flamed with disunion sentiments. At this juncture Senator 
James H. Hammond and Mr. Hamlin engaged in a notable discus 
sion. Mr. Hammond was a courteous and highly educated man, who 
sincerely believed that slavery was a blessing, and his speech was 
convincing proof that the rulers of the South, the slaveholders, were 
now coming to the conviction that their section must sooner or later 
separate itself from the North. Mr. Hammond spoke with authority ; 
he was himself one of the largest slaveholders in the country. This 
is the historical significance of the speech, though at the time it gave 
the author the name of " Mudsill " Hammond, which arose from a 
peculiar use he made of this word, for which he said he intended to 
employ " manual hireling " in describing the free laborer. 

Senator Hammond 2 attempted to prove that the South had a civil 
ization superior to that of the North, and asserted that slavery gave 
to the South the "best frame of society enjoyed by any people on 
the face of the earth." Without openly advocating separation, he 
maintained that the South could stand alone, because it could present 
a larger army of " men on horseback with guns " than any other power, 
and because " cotton was king." If cotton was not furnished for three 
years, " England would topple headlong and drag all the civilized 
world, except the South, with her." To justify the South s feelings 
in favor of a separation, he declared that the North had broken faith 
with it, while the South had remained unchanged, and he asked what 
guarantee did the South have that the North would not "rob the 
South with a tariff," " bankrupt it with internal improvements and 

1 One of Benton s last political acts was to draw up resolutions denouncing the 
Dred Scott decision. This he gave to Francis P. Blair, Jr., with instructions to 
have Mr. Hamlin, for one, push them in the Senate. 

2 Congressional Globe, March 4, 1858, pp. 959-962. 


fishery bounties," " create a new national bank," and " concentrate 
the finances at the North." But the wildest assertion Mr. Ham 
mond made was that the Northern free laborers were virtually slaves, 
" hired for the day, and not taken care of, and scantily compensated." 
They were the class who performed the drudgery of life, " the very 
mudsills of society and political government, and you might as well 
undertake to build a house in the air as to build one or the other 
except on this mudsill. . . . Your slaves are white. They are your 
equals in natural endowments of intellect." 

Mr. Hamlin s reply extended over the larger part of two days, on 
March 9 and 10. It was not a studied effort, but a conscientious 
presentation of facts. Yet it is interesting because it was a charac 
teristic speech in several respects, besides being a valuable array of 
statistics. It was a good illustration of Senator Hamlin s peculiar 
ability to present the truth by grouping facts and fiction in sharp 
contrast. It had also some quaint and original home-thrusts, which 
gave it a unique flavor. While it was not one of Mr. Hamlin s best 
forensic efforts, it was a worthy demonstration of his large and prac 
tical knowledge of the business, commercial, industrial, political, and 
educational interests of the country. Henry Wilson, who was in 
the Senate, and a listener, wrote : " With patient research and care 
ful collation of facts, Mr. Hamlin demonstrated the fallacies of Mr. 
Hammond s argument for the alleged greater prosperity of the South 
ern slave States, from the relative amounts of Southern and Northern 
exports, by showing from facts and figures that in all the elements of 
substantial prosperity, the free States were far in advance of the 
slave States, and that the advance was becoming greater and more 
apparent every year." l 

In denouncing the Lecompton constitution, Senator Hamlin uttered 
this interesting prophecy : " Who that believes that nations, like 
individuals, must answer to a Higher Power for the wrongs they 
perpetrate, who that believes that the sins committed by a nation 
are to be answered for as the sins of an individual, can doubt that 
if the present course of things be persisted in, a fearful retribution 
must follow ? " Proceeding to his theme, Mr. Hamlin said the facts 
of history showed that the faith of the South had not been kept, while 
" no single instance has been cited in which the North has violated 
its constitutional obligations." But it was the South that had changed 
and broken faith. " Who were the authors of the tariff policy ? Read 
the messages of Thomas Jefferson, of James Madison ; the language 
of Mr. Calhoun ; ... it was the South that tendered its aid to the 
North in establishing a protective policy. . . . The North should 
not again fasten a national bank on the South." "That policy, too, 
1 Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, vol. ii. p. 550. 


came from the distinguished senator from South Carolina " (Calhoun). 
" When the Constitution was framed it was expected that the institu 
tion of slavery would fade away." "We had the maxims and the 
teachings of Jefferson and all the wisest and best statesmen of the 
South against slavery. . . . How stands the South to-day ? She 
has repudiated the doctrines of her fathers, and comes here asserting 
that our government is founded on the principles of human servitude. 
Who have kept their faith ? " 

The Missouri Compromise was conceived by the South, and passed 
by the South with the help of some Northern votes. But " who ab 
rogated this restriction ? . . . After the South had secured under that 
compromise all the advantage that could accrue to her and her pecul 
iar institutions, she comes into this hall, and she asks, she demands, 
and she obtains a repeal of all that was beneficial to the North. We 
are told by the senator from South Carolina that we can rely upon 
the South, that her plighted faith has never been broken ! " But it 
was not alone in a party aspect that the South violated the time- 
honored compact. " Search all the records of your country, examine 
all the messages that have ever been presented to us, and not one 
can be found where an executive has undertaken to foreshadow the 
opinions of the judiciary, until you come to the inaugural address of 
the present President of the United States." The court decided that 
the colored man had no rights that the white man was bound to 
respect. " Modern Democracy claims that a majority of free white 
men in your territories have no rights that it is bound to respect. 
This is the doctrine of progress, as my friend (Mr. Durkee) says. 
But it is the kind of progress a boy made going to school. He 
arrived late, and excused himself by saying that every step he took 
forward he slipped back two. How did you get to school ? he was 
asked. Why, he replied, I turned around and went backwards. 

The North had more beggary than the South and took less care of 
its poor ! This challenge invited another contrast between the free 
North and the slave South, and it was answered out of the mouths of 
Southern statisticians, who deplored the fact that slavery enlisted all 
the capital and enterprise of the South at a consequence of killing 
her manufacturing possibilities and interests and creating the " poor 
white trash." William Gregg, of South Carolina, regretted this state 
of affairs, and estimated that there were one hundred and twenty-five 
thousand poor whites in South Carolina who were "wholly neglected, 
and were suffered to while away an existence in a state but one step 
in advance of the Indian of the forest." Senator Hammond himself, 
in a speech in 1850, before the South Carolina Institute, described the 
poor whites of- the South as obtaining a " precarious subsistence by 
occasional jobs, by hunting, by fishing, by plundering fields or folds, 


... by trading with slaves." De Bow, of Louisiana, a recognized 
authority of national reputation, advocated the establishment of man 
ufactures in the South " to raise this class from want and beggary 
and too frequently moral degradation," and characterized the poor 
whites as, " by association, a reduction of the white servant to the 
level of their colored fellow-menials." 

The Northern laborers manual hirelings and virtually slaves ! " Who 
are the manual laborers of the North that are degraded and placed by 
the slaves of the South by the senator of South Carolina ? Sir, in all 
classes of our community are manual laborers. . . . They constitute, 
I affirm, a majority of our community those who labor for compen 
sation. I do not know, I confess I cannot understand, that distinction 
which allows a man to make a contract for the services of his brain, 
but denies him the right to make a contract for the services of his 
hands. There is no distinction whatever between them. We draw 
none; we make none. . . . Who are our hireling manual laborers of 
the North ? Sir, I can tell the senator that they are not the mud 
sills of our community. They are the men who clear away our forests. 
They are the men who make the green hillside blossom. They are 
the men who build our ships and who navigate them. They are the 
men who build our towns and who inhabit them. They are the men 
who constitute the great mass of our community. Sir, they are not 
only the pillars that support our government, but they are the capi 
tals that adorn the very pillars. They are not to be classed with 
slaves ! . . . They do our legislation at home. They support the 
State. They are the State. They are men, high-minded men. They 
read ; they watch you in these halls every day. ... I affirm that the 
great portion of our laborers at the North own their homes, and . . . 
they read ; they are intelligent. . . . They are the pillars of the State, 
the State itself, and the very ornaments that adorn the columns." 

The assertion that the South was more productive led to a presen 
tation of official figures that made that claim ridiculous, and then 
Senator Hamlin closed his speech with an earnest appeal to the Senate 
to reject the Lecompton constitution, on the ground that it had been 
rejected by the people of Kansas. He said : " We ought, at the mere 
suggestion of wrong to these people, to go to the very basis and ascer 
tain whether we are about to perpetrate a wrong, and force upon them 
a government which is not their own. But, sir, instead of that we 
are here day after day with petty juggling and pettifogging, claiming 
to proceed under the forms of the law. Forms of the law ! God 
knows that there is nothing but form in it. Forms of law ! Long 
ago the mother country undertook to oppress the colonies by forms of 
law, but not as unjustly as we have ruled the people of Kansas ; and 
she persecuted that great and noble patriot, John Hampden, under the 


forms of the law and for his love of liberty. ... In all history, save 
the crucifixion of Christ, there is no act that will stand upon the record 
of its pages of equal turpitude with this. The purpose of it is to 
extend human slavery." 

But the slave power would not listen to reason. Though Douglas, 
backed by thousands of Northern Democrats, had broken away in the 
Senate, and a dozen Democrats in the House had defied the party 
whip, yet the slave party could not see the writing on the wall. It 
drove the Lecompton constitution through the Senate by a vote of 
33 to 25, but was beaten in the House. It was cunning enough now 
to talk once more of compromise, and a characteristic compromise was 
offered. This was devised by William H. English, of Indiana. In 
plain words it was a vulgar attempt to bribe the people of Kansas 
to accept a pro-slavery constitution. The English bill submitted 
the Lecompton constitution to a popular vote, and made a handsome 
grant of land to Kansas if her people adopted the Lecompton fraud. 
If they did not, they could not have the land, and Congress would 
postpone the admission of Kansas into the Union as a State. This 
was forced through Congress so low had that body fallen ; but 
Kansas would not give up the battle she had fought so valiantly for 
the rights of her free people, and, in spite of the Border Ruffians, 
rejected the Lecompton constitution and the English swindle by more 
than 10,000 votes. And now Kansas was free and the cause of Free 
Soil strengthened. On the other hand, the disappointment of the slave 
power was twofold. It had fought the Mexican war, and had repealed 
the Missouri Compromise in vain. 1 Sullen and angered, it waited the 
movement of events. 

1 When the slave party deposed Douglas from the chairmanship of the Com 
mittee on Territories, Senator Hamlin wrote his brother Elijah on December 13, 
1858 : " I think the party leaders mean to kill him, and I hope they will. We want 
nothing to do with him." 






THE logical outcome of Mr. Hamlin s brilliant victory in Maine in 
the campaign of 1856 was the consideration of his name in connection 
with both the presidency and the vice-presidency, in the discussion of 
the available candidates that preceded the Republican convention of 
1860, and his nomination for Vice-President. To quote Thomas B. 
Reed, "This campaign made him Vice-President, and might have 
made him President." While it was the undoubted fact that Mr. 
Hamlin did not desire the presidency or the vice-presidency, never 
theless the logic of events, precedent, and party custom placed him in 
the line of succession for either of these offices, and he was swept 
into the vice-presidency, though against his wishes. The student of 
American political history need not be told that the governorship of 
a great State has often proved to be the stepping-stone to one of the 
two highest offices in the land. George Clinton, Daniel D. Tomp- 
kins, and Martin Van Buren, of New York, owed their elevation to the 
vice-presidency in no small measure to their election to the governor 
ship of the Empire State. Mr. Polk s spirited contest in Tennessee, 
and dramatic victory in a gubernatorial campaign in that State, were 
factors that contributed to raise him to the presidency. In later 
years, Hayes and Cleveland were indebted for their advancement to 
the executive chair to the same process of selection, while McKin- 
ley s availability was strengthened by the notable popularity he re 
vealed when he was elected and reflected governor of Ohio. But 
these illustrations will suffice to show how the course of events was 
responsible for Mr. Hamlin s nomination for Vice-President in 1860. 

In studying the political situation prior to the Republican presiden 
tial convention of 1860, it is necessary to bear in mind the fact that 
the consideration of availability was the chief factor in shaping its 
final action. General Fremont had declined to allow his name to go 
before the convention, and this, it was thought, would leave a clear 
field for Senator Seward, who was then the recognized leader of the 
party. But although Mr. Seward was favored by a majority of the 
party, he was strongly opposed by a minority, chiefly because it was 
feared that he could not be elected on account of the antagonism 
to him among the Know-Nothing elements that were supposed to 


control the doubtful States of Pennsylvania and Illinois. Mr. Hamlin 
shared this fear, and although he always entertained very cordial rela 
tions with the distinguished senator from New York, he favored the 
nomination of another man. At the sama time, many of the Repub 
lican politicians and newspapers in Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, 
Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, who questioned Mr. 
Seward s availability, began seriously to consider Mr. Hamlin s quali 
fications for the presidency, and to urge him to become a candidate. 
But this was against his wishes, and the movement did not fairly 
come before the public, although the presidential makers were aware 
of it, and some newspapers talked of it. The incident, however, is 
of sufficient interest to detail ; it probably had some effect on the 
convention of 1860. 

Few men ever reached the presidency without causing or allowing 
their friends to organize a movement in their behalf. Mr. Hamlin s 
supporters proposed to follow the usual methods, and in pursuance of 
this they began to circulate newspaper articles and his anti-slavery 
speeches throughout the country. It was the opinion of shrewd 
political observers of the day that few speeches ever had more influ 
ence on public action in the United States, in the shaping of political 
events in a critical period, than Mr. Hamlin s renunciation of the 
Democracy. It was also regarded as a striking exposition of the char 
acter, ability, and individuality of the man. It was disseminated 
broadcast throughout the country as campaign material, both in 1856 
and 1860; and it reappeared again and again in the public prints 
throughout the rest of his life. Another interesting argument in his 
behalf was an article that appeared in the " St. Louis Globe-Demo 
crat " (then the "Missouri Democrat"), in October, 1858, which was 
at that time the most powerful Republican organ in the Southwest. 
The circumstances of the publication of the article in question are as 
follows : A Republican politician of considerable activity, who was 
traveling in Maine in the fall of 1858, visited Hampden to see Mr. 
Hamlin, whom he had known at Washington. On reaching Hamp 
den, he was struck with surprise to find a man he regarded as one ef 
the strongest leaders in the Senate working on a farm, among the 
regular hands, and enjoying himself with keen zest. He was so 
impressed with this glimpse of Mr. Hamlin, in his home life, that he 
wrote an interesting account, which fell into the hands of the " St. 
Louis Globe-Democrat," although it was not intended for publication. 
He described Senator Hamlin s home as a "plain and comfortable 
residence," and his land as a "fine little farm of only ten acres of 
tillage land." He said that Mr. Hamlin told him that he "raised 
enough produce to supply his table," and that "for ten years he had 
always had corn left over to sell from ten to twenty bushels." He 


gave other details regarding Senator Hamlin s home, life, which alto 
gether furnished a Coriolanus-like picture. The " St. Louis Globe- 
Democrat" published this letter, with an editorial comment that was 
republished at the time by journals which were scanning the horizon 
for the appearance of an available candidate against Seward. The 
editorial was as follows : 

" One of the first men of this nation is Senator Hamlin, of Maine. We 
do not mean that he has those gifts of brilliancy which attract upon the 
instant, nor those demonstrative qualities of a contentious spirit which 
make men the idols of excited crowds, but that in calmness and manliness, 
in solidity of character, in truth of speech, in firmness of resolve, he has 
few equals among distinguished statesmen of to-day. From the time of 
Jackson until now he has maintained the rigid inflexibility of his faith, 
careless of party defections and neglectful of party rewards, yet with the 
courage to lead on in critical conjunction, or to stand aloof and alone when 
factions become demoralized with victory. Taught earl)% that Democracy 
meant freedom and not slavery, he has never swerved from that teaching ; 
but in all his relations has ever allied himself with the radical element in 
politics which represents both control by the people and liberty to the 

" In his domestic life he is above reproach and of singular simplicity of 
habit, going from the senate chamber to the harvest fields, or from the toils 
of a small farm to the cares of a great State, with the ease, dignity, and 
cheerfulness that mark the man devoted to duty before pleasure and con 
scious of acting his true part in life. Of late we have seen going the 
rounds of the partisan press a series of letters from Washington, telling 
how grandly and gorgeously some of our wealthy representatives have 
entertained the diplomatists and strangers at the federal capital, and deal 
ing in what we must believe to be very exaggerated accounts of their muni 
ficence. To rival the White House in splendor is now the highest ambition 
of many there, and when we recall the plunder of the public treasury in 
which they have participated, the only wonder is that they succeeded so 
poorly. It is in contrast with such with the Douglases, the Gwins, the 
Brights, who ape the poor pretensions of aristocratic ways that we wish 
to present a picture of this truly Republican senator as seen in his own 

In other allusions to Mr. Hamlin, in connection with the presi 
dential ticket of 1860, the newspaper press that was favorable to him 
drew attention to the contrast in ability, character, and experience he 
presented to Presidents Tyler, Polk, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan, 
and to Douglas, Breckinridge, and other men the Democracy was 
discussing as presidential possibilities. But this will suffice, without 
going further into details, to show the drift of sentiment while the 
canvass was in process of discussion. Mr. Hamlin did not take it 
seriously, because he did not desire either the presidency or the vice- 


presidency. When members of his family learned that leaders were 
writing him, urging him to become a candidate for President, he sim 
ply acknowledged the fact and added that he made no replies. He 
kept no records of the men who wrote him, and never of his own 
accord alluded to the incident. His conduct, on the whole, would 
seem incomprehensible to presidential seekers, and possibly repre 
hensible in view of the opportunity that was thus presented to him. 
While it is not within the limits of speculation to calculate the effect 
Mr. Hamlin might have had on the convention as a candidate with 
an organized movement at his back, it is of interest to recall the 
strength the various minor aspirants revealed. On the first ballot, 
Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, received 50^- votes ; Salmon P. 
Chase, of Ohio, 49 ; Edward Bates, of Missouri, 48 ; William L. Day 
ton, of New Jersey, 14; John McLean, of Ohio, 12 ; and Jacob Col- 
lamer, of Vermont, 10. New England had no candidate, but divided 
her eighty odd votes among the various contestants. It had been 
proposed to bring Mr. Hamlin forward as the New England candi 
date. When it is borne in mind that the presidential lightning had 
unexpectedly struck such men as Polk and Pierce, it will be seen 
that Mr. Hamlin s friends were not without substantial grounds for 
reasoning that he might concentrate the anti-Seward elements on 
himself. But he preferred another man, and in the end threw his 
influence to Abraham Lincoln. This was one cause of the perfect 
friendship that always existed between them. 

Six months before the Republican National Convention met at 
Chicago, Mr. Hamlin became convinced that the talk connecting his 
name with the presidency was more than a complimentary expression 
of opinion, and that unless he broke his silence there would be an 
organized movement to place him before the convention. The initia 
tive was likely to be taken by the same cohorts who fought his battles 
against the slave power in Maine. Their desire was to pledge Maine 
to Mr. Hamlin in their state convention when delegates at large were 
to be chosen to the national convention. This would set the ball roil 
ing, and carry undecided delegates from other States to Mr. Hamlin. 
But in placing a man on the presidential track, as the politicians say, 
it is first necessary to have his consent, although, it may be con 
ceded, this is not usually difficult to obtain. Mr. Hamlin was the 
notable exception, and he again proved the sincerity of his declaration 
that he would rather be senator than President, by stopping all pro 
ceedings in his behalf at this juncture. Josiah H. Drummond, who 
was speaker of the House of Representatives of Maine the year 
before, informed Mr. Hamlin by letter that his consent was all that 
was wanting to place him before the national convention as Maine s 
choice for President. This was a formal declaration that Mr. Hamlin 


could not ignore, and he promptly replied from Washington, on 
December 16, declining to encourage the movement in his favor, and 
outlining his ideas of the situation. 

He said that he was aware of the fact that " sundry newspapers 
in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin had named him" for the presi 
dency, and also acknowledged the receipt of "sundry letters from 
leading men in these States and New York to the same effect." But 
he had "no aspirations for the presidency," and believed that it was 
the duty of the Republican party to make success its watchword and 
to " rise above personal considerations." He added that if Maine 
wanted a candidate it might be a good plan to present Senator Fes- 
senden, and he " would have a delegation from Maine who would 
concur in it." But this was in the event of a contingency that would 
give the nomination to a man who was not a candidate, and might 
"come up from the outside." If his own name should be forced on 
the convention he would naturally desire the concurrence of his own 
State. But he had "no hope or desire for such a result." 

The striking passages may be quoted : 

" Sevvard is our prominent man, and I would, indeed, be glad to see him 
elected. I am his friend, but more the friend of the cause. I do not 
believe it will be wise to nominate him. We can elect another, while we 
might fail with him. ... I have a settled conviction in my mind that the 
wisest thing we can do will be to nominate Judge Read, of Pennsylvania, 
for President, and Bates, of St. Louis, for Vice. Read is an able man, and 
was an old Democrat. [Bates was a Whig.] He can carry Pennsylvania 
with a rush. He united and consolidated the Republicans and Americans 
in that State last year, and was elected justice of the Supreme Court by a 
large majority. These men having united cordially for him once will do 
so easily again. These are my present views. 

" My advice would be to elect a delegation from Maine of our best men 
and to be for no one, but be ready to cooperate in what is best when they 
meet in convention." 

This reference to John Meredith Read, who was then chief justice 
of Pennsylvania, gives an insight into the plans that men in the inner 
councils of the Republican party were considering at this stage of 
the presidential canvass. It shows how largely the consideration of 
availability governed their deliberations at every stage of the nomi 
nating campaign. At one time the selection of Judge Read appeared 
to be one of the possibilities, and although his name was not formally 
presented to the convention, the incident is of sufficient interest to 
detail. In 1856 Buchanan carried Pennsylvania by only a little more 
than fourteen hundred votes over Fremont, and it was claimed that 
he won his victory through his double-face attitude on the Kansas 
question and the frauds of his party. But it is probable that that 


interesting factor in American politics called state pride saved the 
day for Buchanan. In 1857 David Wilmot, the Republican candidate 
for governor, was badly defeated, probably on account of his free-trade 
ideas, and the party was greatly discouraged. In 1858 the situation 
was changed by Read s election to the chief justiceship by more than 
thirty thousand majority. It was then inevitable that Judge Read, 
with his great learning as a jurist, ample experience in public affairs, 
high character, and attractive personality, should be considered in con 
nection with the presidency. Then, again, Judge Read was peculiarly 
qualified for the nomination in the eyes of Messrs. Hamlin, Wilmot, 
and others of the ol d Democracy. He was also a former Jackson 
Democrat and an anti-slavery man. President Polk nominated him 
for the Supreme Bench, and his convictions prevented his confirma 
tion, which was a testimonial to him. 

The Read movement was doomed to failure, but it was once of 
promising dimensions and had the support of many strong men. 
Those who are familiar with the peculiarities of American politics 
know how a wave of sentiment moves in the direction of a man, and 
then suddenly recedes, leaving him on the shoal of defeat. Simon 
Cameron changed the current that was sweeping towards Judge Read. 
He was the " boss " of Pennsylvania politics, and had presidential 
aspirations himself. One of the surviving veterans of this interesting 
contest is E. Reed Myer, who was Wilmot s confidential associate 
and also Mr. Hamlin s personal friend. He has also long been prom 
inent in the Republican party of his State, having been a member of 
both branches of the legislature, speaker of the House in 1877-78, 
and the surveyor of the port of Philadelphia from 1860 to 1866, when 
with Mr. Hamlin and others he resigned, refusing to hold office under 
President Johnson. From Towanda, Mr. Myer wrote l that Cameron 
claimed that he could carry a larger Know-Nothing vote in Pennsyl 
vania than Judge Read, since he had affiliated with that party. Cam 
eron had the power and carried the day, though Mr. Myer was of the 
opinion that the support he received was not sincere. This was one 
reason why the Pennsylvania delegation went over to Lincoln on the 
second ballot. One last appeal in the delegation to vote for Read 
was made by George T. Thorn and other leading citizens of Philadel 
phia, and this was that Senator Hamlin would bring the support of 
the Eastern States. An anomaly was the fact that the Read plan 
finally included the nomination of Lincoln for Vice- President. 

The rise of Abraham Lincoln was the interesting personal event 
of this political period. His appearance on the scene of action was 
not due to the chance of fortune or to the acts of any set of men. He 
was the man of the hour because he fulfilled the peculiar requirements 

1 To the author. 


of the emergency, and he was the architect of his own fortunes. His 
comparative failure in Congress served only to strengthen his ambition 
and desire to succeed. He was conscious of his superior ability, how 
ever modest he may have been, and was not then without hope of a 
great future, though his ambitions did not seem to reach higher than 
the vice-presidency when he began to rise to distinction in the North 
west. He tried to shape his career just as a broad-gauged, sagacious, 
and shrewd politician would and should. He was a practical politician 
in the best sense of the word, and he owed his advancement to his 
familiarity with practical politics and politicians. He became chair 
man of the Whig party in Illinois, and when the Republican party 
was formed, his unique personality, perfect honesty, peculiar ability, 
love of truth, and tender sympathies for mankind were so well known 
that almost by one voice he was called to the head of the new organi 
zation in his State. All that was wanting to bring Mr. Lincoln before 
the nation was the opportunity to make himself heard, and this came 
when Douglas was a candidate for reelection to the Senate in 1858. 

Mr. Lincoln was again called on by his party to lead in this emer 
gency, and the debates with Douglas that followed placed him before 
the country, and indeed the world, as a statesman with views and 
purposes which were in touch with the enlightened spirit of the age, 
and a singularly felicitous power of making a great truth clear in a 
few words, or one original phrase, to the average mind. No public 
discussion between two statesmen, with the exception of the debates 
between Webster and Calhoun, exerted as much effect on the Ameri 
can people as the forensic contest between Lincoln and Douglas. 
There is indeed a parallel. The philosophical estimate that might be 
placed on the real value of Calhoun s career is the fact that it was he 
who served to rouse Webster to his mightiest efforts in expounding 
the national ideas of our government. In the same way, the chief 
value of Douglas s career was the fact that he served to stir Lincoln 
to his utmost, and bring out from him his best thoughts. Calhoun 
created the doctrine of nullification out of which came the idea of 
secession. Douglas built up the almost equally pernicious doctrine of 
squatter sovereignty which helped bring on the war. Webster s re 
plies to Hayne and Calhoun " had the force of a constitutional amend 
ment." In his replies to Douglas, Lincoln supplemented Webster, 
and while Calhoun and Douglas, like " Henry of France, marched up 
the hill and down again," the works of Webster and Lincoln are 
perpetuated forever because they are imbedded in the Constitution of 
this republic. 

While Mr. Lincoln was not immediately talked of for the presi 
dency outside of Illinois, as a result of his debates with Douglas his 
words fell on fallow soil. He produced a deep and lasting effect on 


the masses of the North, and the politicians were persistently asked, 
" Who is this Lincoln and what is he like ? " His speeches not only 
helped clear away the atmosphere of doubt that hung over the move 
ment of political events, but also interested the public in his person 
ality. The Northern masses intuitively recognized a true friend in 
this new champion, and wanted to learn *all they could about him. 
The effect, then, of Mr. Lincoln s debates with Senator Douglas was 
to win him a national reputation, and place him before his party as a 
presidential possibility. Yet among the Eastern opponents of Mr. 
Seward there was uncertainty whether Mr. Lincoln was worthy of his 
reputation, and was equal to the great responsibilities of the presi 
dency. His prominence caused the Democratic pro-slavery news 
papers to make attacks on him. One favorite trick they had of mis 
representing Mr. Lincoln was to jeer at him as a "peripatetic lecturer " 
and "backwoods humorist." But this only shows the force of his 
exposures of the iniquities of the pro-slavery party. After the defeat 
of Judge Read, when the anti-Seward men were looking around for a 
new man, the New York opponents of Mr. Seward decided to invite 
Mr. Lincoln to address them in New York city, at Cooper Union, 
on February 27, 1860, to judge for themselves of his fitness for the 

This was Mr. Lincoln s supreme opportunity, and he rose to the 
emergency. Horace Greeley testified in the "Tribune" that "no 
man has spoken to a larger assemblage of the intellectual and mental 
culture of our city." The occasion was under the auspices of leading 
men like William Cullen Bryant, ex-Governor John A. King, David 
Dudley Field, Cephas Brainard, James W. Nye, James A. Briggs, 
Charles C. Nott, Hiram Barney, whom Mr. Lincoln appointed col 
lector of the port of New York, and others active in political affairs. 
While they were anxious to find the Moses who could lead them at 
this juncture, their attitude was necessarily critical and searching at 
first. But whatever barriers there might have been that natural pru 
dence, caution, and conservatism erected, they were soon overcome 
by the speaker and forgotten in the glow of satisfaction he created. 
Although slavery was a well worn subject in all its aspects to the 
auditors, they soon found that Mr. Lincoln was reinvesting it with a 
new interest, and that he was treating the political problem with the 
authority of a statesman. His unique personality, too, took on a new 
appearance, and the dignity with which he bore himself, the ease with 
which he delivered his argument, unconsciously dispelled any precon 
ceived notions the auditors might have acquired through the carica 
tures of the Democratic press. They felt that they were in contact 
with a great and searching mind and a strong and well balanced indi 
viduality. The argument was cold and solid logic, an irrefutable proof 


that the founders of the government both favored the restriction of 
slavery and opposed its extension. Confidence in Mr. Lincoln s ability 
as a statesman and his qualities as a man was established. His vic 
tory was unique, and without parallel judged by its results : it won 
him the presidency of the United States. 

Mr. Hamlin followed the Lincoln and Douglas debates with keen 
interest, and with the defeat of the Read movement began to consider 
the possibilities of Mr. Lincoln in connection with the presidential 
nomination. He consulted with members of the Illinois congressional 
delegation who knew Mr. Lincoln well, particularly Elihu B. Wash- 
burne and Senator Douglas. Mr. Washburne s opinions always had 
great weight with Mr. Hamlin, and his views of Mr. Lincoln pleased 
him. Senator Douglas never failed to speak fairly and frankly of 
Mr. Lincoln to those of his personal friends among the Republican 
congressmen who asked him about his Illinois rival. To Mr. Hamlin 
and others he said that Mr. Lincoln was an honest, able man, and the 
one whom he disliked above all to meet in debate. It was the better 
Douglas who spoke, and his just tribute to Mr. Lincoln could not but 
result in strengthening the good impressions the latter had already 
made on the leaders of his party. The Cooper Union speech, which 
was the convincing argument in favor of Mr. Lincoln, now had the 
effect of setting Mr. Hamlin quietly at work to secure delegates for 
this new champion from the giant young West. 

One of the interesting phases of the political situation was the ex 
istence of a little jealousy between the two principal elements that 
composed the Republican party. Indeed, it was hardly to be expected 
that after men had fought each other for many years as Whigs and 
Democrats, they could be expected to sink all feelings of distrust in a 
political association of only four years existence. In passing, it should 
be added by way of parenthesis that not a few of Mr. Hamlin s old 
friends, who were desirous of obtaining a continuation of his support, 
would remind him, even many years after the formation of the Repub 
lican party, that they had "always been Andrew Jackson. Democrats," 
while their opponents had " always been Federalists of the stiffest 
kind." Ift Maine there was not a little friction of this kind, and great 
tact had to be exercised in reconciling differences that arose from 
this. Senator Fessenden was the accepted leader of the former 
Whigs, and Senator Hamlin of the former Democrats. Any move 
ment against Mr. Seward in Maine was likely to arouse the animosi 
ties and jealousies of his former Whig admirers. Mr. Hamlin had 
therefore to proceed with great caution. 

The line of action which he pursued was in accordance with his 
ideas regarding the rights of others and the duty of the occasion. 
He did not wish to go counter to the wishes of his party, but he was 


so strongly convinced of Mr. Seward s weakness that he could not 
remain silent. He would not resort to the arbitrary methods of the 
" boss " to defeat the Seward men, but he was not disposed to allow 
them to pledge the Maine delegation to the New York leader. He 
conceived a policy in the end that was one of the most interesting 
and characteristic illustrations we have of fiis knowledge of men and 
politics, as will appear later. In the beginning he quietly defined his 
position to his intimate friends, and allowed it to be known to Gov 
ernor Seward. This is mentioned because an impression once prevailed 
that Mr. Hamlin was favorable to Seward. There was no warrant for 
this. There was no feeling between Mr. Seward and his Maine asso 
ciate on that account, and their intercourse was as friendly as ever. 
Mr. Hamlin candidly expressed his fears that Mr. Seward could not 
carry the doubtful States which controlled the result. Thus there 
was no unnecessary antagonism caused among the Maine Republicans 
when they prepared to choose four delegates at large to the Chicago 
convention, and indicate their preference for President. 

This was left to the representatives of the party in the legislature. 
In this body Mr. Hamlin had a large number of personal friends and 
followers, who were guided by his advice in all matters of party im 
portance. Among the senators were Josiah H. Drummond, of Water- 
ville ; Joseph Barron, of Topsham ; Henry Kennedy, of Waldoboro ; 
Amos B. Simpson, of Sullivan ; John Bridges, of Castine ; Joseph M. 
Livermore, of Eastport ; John Thissell, of Corinth ; Jabez True, of 
Bangor ; William C. Hammatt, of Howland, and Phineas Tolman, of 
Rockland. In the House were William H. Rounds, of Danville ; John 
B. Jones, of Lewiston ; Newell A. Foster, of Portland ; Frederick 
Webber, of Castine ; Daniel M. Perkins, of Penobscot ; James R. 
Bachelder,of Readfield ; Everett W. Stetson, of Damariscotta ; Timothy 
Williams, of Rockland ; James W. Clark, of Andover ; John P. Hub- 
bard, of Hiram ; Alvah Black, of Paris ; E. W. Woodbury, of Sweden ; 
Benjamin Y. Tuell, of Sumner ; George K. Jewett, of Bangor ; John 
B. Nickels, of Corinth ; Samuel H. Chesley, of Chester ; Winthrop 
Chapman, of Exeter ; Luther N. Jones, of Holden ; Amos Pickard, 
of Hampden ; Joseph P. Sinclair, of Levant ; Benjamin B. Thomas, 
of Newburgh ; John Benson, of Newport ; Samuel Wiswell, of Orring- 
ton ; Richard M. Woodman, of Old Town ; Ira D. Fish, of Patten ; 
Moses W. Brown, of Brownville ; A. K. P. Gray, of Dover ; Charles 
Loring, of Guilford ; T. J. Small, of Wellington ; Reuben A. Rich, of 
Frankfort ; Joseph W. Thompson, of Stockton ; Raymond S. Rich, 
of Thorndike ; Stephen Dyer, of Unity ; Samuel C. Hamilton, of 
Biddeford ; Ephraim C. Spinney, of Kittery, and others who were 
well known in their day. 

When it came time for the Republican legislature caucus to act, 


Mr. Hamlin s friends and others shared his opinion, and the caucus 
passed a resolution declaring that it was best not to instruct the dele 
gates, but to allow them to go to Chicago and vote for the candidates 
who in their judgment could be elected. This was offered by James 
G. Elaine, who was then a member of the Maine House, and was rap 
idly coming to the front. The preference of the caucus was unmis 
takably for Mr. Seward, because it chose four delegates at large who 
were known to be in his favor. But Mr. Hamlin made no contest on 
this point. He believed that if representative men were sent to 
Chicago, they would speedily see for themselves that the logic of the 
situation would dictate the selection of a man other than Seward. 
The adoption of the resolution was a moral victory, and Mr. Hamlin 
attached importance to it. The Seward men believed at first that 
New England would generally support him as the Eastern candidate ; 
but the action of the Maine Republicans, in refusing to instruct their 
delegates for him, was evidence that the New York senator was not so 
strong in that section of the country as they had supposed that he 
was. Those who are versed in the peculiarities of practical politics 
know how a little straw like this may produce important results that 
upset the best laid plans. 

The action of the legislative caucus had the effect of restraining 
the Seward men throughout Maine from pledging delegates to their 
favorite candidate when the conventions were held in the various 
congressional districts, and the general disposition was to allow the 
delegates to act according to their judgment. But in one district, 
which was then the second and now a part of the third, the Seward 
men made a determined effort to choose one of their number, Colonel 
John N. Swazey, a leading citizen of Bucksport and a man of influ 
ence in his party. When this move was reported to Senator Hamlin, 
he exerted himself to head off the Seward men. He instructed his son 
Charles, who was beginning the practice of law at Orland, to concen 
trate the anti-Seward strength on some representative Republican 
who would go to Chicago unpledged. Mr. Hamlin conferred with 
leading men in Hancock County who were his father s friends, with 
the result that Captain John West, of Franklin, was selected as 
their candidate. He had leanings towards Lincoln, and he was cho 
sen also because he was a cool and reliable politician, and would be 
governed wholly by practical considerations in the Chicago conven 
tion. There was a sharp fight, and Captain West was elected by a 
small majority. 

There were sixteen delegates elected from Maine, and although 
they were unpledged, yet if Mr. Hamlin had not taken further action, 
it is probable that all but one or two would have voted for Mr. 
Seward in obedience to the strong sentiment in his favor that existed 


in Maine. Mr. Hamlin now counted on his personal influence, and 
also on the sense of the convention, to open the eyes of the delegates 
to Mr. Seward s weakness. General Samuel F. Hersey, of Bangor, 
and Mark F. Wentworth, of Kittery, were two delegates who had long 
followed Mr. Hamlin and were among his closest friends. He em 
phasized to them his fears that Mr. Seward "could not be elected, and 
at the same time frankly expressed his doubts whether Seward was 
the right man for the presidency at this juncture, even if he could be 
elected. He felt that the presidency required peculiar qualities, and 
that Mr. Seward s brilliant ability and personal characteristics would 
win him a loftier eminence in the Senate than in the White House. 
This was not derogatory to Mr. Seward ; it was in accordance with 
the ideas Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Benton discussed in regard to other 
candidates for the presidency in 1852. General Hersey and Mr. 
Wentworth accepted Mr. Hamlin s judgment, and now, counting Cap 
tain West, there were three delegates who would be governed by the 
sense of the convention. The question then arose how to influence 
more, and that is another story. 

When the Maine delegation started for Chicago, General Hersey 
and other members called on Senator Hamlin, at Washington, to con 
sult further with him about their course in the convention. While 
Mr. Seward s nomination at this time appeared reasonably certain, 
there was sufficient doubt in the minds of Mr. Hamlin s friends to 
make it advisable, in their opinion, to groom him as the "dark horse," 
as the politicians say. This subject came up once more, and Mr. 
Hamlin thought to end it forever by emphatically forbidding the pre 
sentation of his name in connection with either place on the ticket. 
He went. farther, on seeing that his friends were disappointed, and 
exacted from them a promise that they would not vote for him in case 
his name happened to be brought before the convention. This, he 
supposed, precluded all possibility of his nomination, and he then 
turned to the course before the Maine delegates. He gave them 
some characteristic advice, which was substantially as follows : 

"Appoint one of your members to canvass the delegates from the 
three doubtful States of Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Illinois. Have 
him obtain from them in writing the names of three men who can 
carry these States." 

The Republican delegates gathered at Chicago on May 16 under 
auspicious conditions. The party was united and enthusiastic. Party 
success was cordially desired, and Victory was the watchword. Young 
America predominated. The attendance was immense. Chicago was 
electric with excitement. The great wigwam was an arena of stir 
ring scenes. The note of the hour was confidence. All felt that the 


day of the Republican party had come. The final harbinger of suc 
cess was the radical division in the Democracy, which had apparently 
resulted from the struggle between the followers of Douglas and 
Breckinridge to nominate their respective leaders for President at the 
Baltimore convention. The secession scheme of the slave power, 
which was the bottom cause of the split, had not yet come to the 
surface. The quarrel, therefore, served to give the situation a rosy 
tint to the ardent Republicans, and to enliven the contest over the 
ticket to be nominated. But the party was young and comparatively 
free from factional jealousies. Few presidential conventions have 
been conducted with more cordiality and less bitterness. The oppo 
nents of Seward, with but few exceptions, freely recognized the debt 
the party owed to him, and gave testimonial to his high character 
and splendid ability. But they feared he could not be elected. The 
business of the opponents of Mr. Seward was to procure his defeat 
without causing party strife. This was done, and the country long 
ago learned that the credit of this belonged to the friends of Abra 
ham Lincoln. 

The story of the convention need not be told again in detail or the 
scene painted anew. The moral and intellectual character of the 
assemblage was indicated by the presence of many men who after 
wards attained national distinction as congressmen or governors, and 
also of others who were already national figures, Joshua R. Giddings, 
John A. Andrew, Horace Greeley, George William Curtis, George S. 
Boutwell, Andrew G. Curtin, Thurlow Weed, William M. Evarts, 
Francis P. Blair, Jr., B. Gratz Brown, Henry S. Lane, Carl Schurz, 
Edwin D. Morgan, Preston King, David K. Cartter, and many more. 
It was fitting that the Wilmot Proviso should be the first plank of the 
party that was now to go out to its first national success. George 
Ashmun, of Massachusetts, the permanent chairman, had a happy 
faculty of keeping a great crowd in good spirits and humor without 
sacrificing dignity or losing a point. The platform adopted, the con 
vention prepared to ballot for candidates for President. The follow 
ing names were presented without speeches : William H. Seward, of 
New York ; Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois ; Simon Cameron, of Penn 
sylvania ; Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio ; Edward Bates, of Missouri ; 
William L. Dayton, of New Jersey ; John McLean, of Ohio ; and 
Jacob Collamer, of Vermont. The first ballot was taken, and the 
result awaited with great excitement. But before it is announced a 
little incident behind the scenes demands attention. 

Mr. Lincoln s nomination was due to necessity; it was not accom 
plished by any set of men. He was the one man on whom the con 
vention could compromise in the belief that he could carry the 
doubtful States. The delegates realized this after they came to real- 


ize the situation. They found it out in various ways. The undercur 
rent of sentiment that turned in the direction of Mr. Lincoln in the 
opening days of the convention drew into it many hesitating delegates 
who thus contributed to his nomination. This incident is therefore 
related merely to show the natural drift of affairs, not to claim any 
undue credit for Senator Hamlin for bringing delegates over to Mr. 
Lincoln. General Hersey and Mr. Wentworth followed his advice, 
and made a private canvass of the men who represented the three 
great doubtful States. A minority of the delegates thus interrogated 
replied in their own handwriting that Mr. Seward could, while a large 
number contradicted this ; but the majority of delegates from these 
States declared that Lincoln could carry them. This result was con 
vincing to three more delegates from Maine, George W. Lawrence, 
of Warren, Leonard Andrews, of Biddeford, and Rensselaer Cram, of 
Portland. When the first ballot was announced, the Seward men 
were surprised and probably discouraged to learn that Maine, who 
spoke first, gave their leader only ten votes instead of sixteen, while 
the Lincoln men were elated to hear that the Pine Tree State threw 
six votes for their favorite. This was but a straw, but it was one of 
the many that changed the course of events at Chicago in May, 1 860. 

Mr. Lincoln was nominated on the third ballot, and then after a 
brief recess the convention proceeded to choose the candidate for 
Vice- President. The consideration of availability also governed the 
convention in making this selection. Mr. Lincoln being a Western 
man, the advisability of taking an Eastern or border state man for 
his colleague was obvious. The evidence shows that Mr. Hamlin was 
in the minds of many men for a place on the ticket, and that the 
movement in his favor for Vice-President was spontaneous in nature, 
and was developed by the practical element in the convention. Atten 
tion was called to Mr. Hamlin s long service in Congress, his anti- 
slavery career, his popularity in New England, his leadership in 
founding the Republican party, and his recognized standing as a par 
liamentarian, which peculiarly fitted him to preside over the Senate. 
The more radical wing in the convention desired Cassius M. Clay, 
whose splendid battle in Kentucky against slavery had made his name 
a household word. John Hickman, of Pennsylvania, a former anti- 
Nebraska Democrat, had some following. There was also some talk 
about Nathaniel P. Banks, of Massachusetts, Andrew H. Reeder, of 
Pennsylvania, Henry Winter Davis, of Maryland, and others. But 
the tide of sentiment turned so strongly in Mr. Hamlin s favor that 
only Clay was a serious competitor, and his following held together 
for but one ballot. There were, however, some incidents that entered 
into the general results, and should be presented. 

When Senator Hamlin s friends in the Maine delegation reached 


Chicago, and ascertained that there was a strong feeling in favor of 
placing him on the ticket, they concluded that the circumstances of 
the situation absolved them from their pledges to Mr. Hamlin. They 
knew him, and understood that he meant what he said, but the emer 
gency that now confronted them naturally had more weight with them 
than personal considerations. The movement for Mr. Hamlin for 
Vice- President was spontaneous, and they could not stop it. On the 
other hand, there was a strong sentiment for Clay, and as Mr. Ham- 
lin s name was bound to go before the convention, his personal friends 
were determined that he should not suffer the mortification of a defeat 
through lack of organization. With this object in view General Her- 
sey and other friends of Mr. Hamlin canvassed the situation. The 
action that turned the scale in his favor was that taken by the New 
York delegation. This included Preston King and other associates 
and personal friends of Mr. Hamlin in Congress, who were among 
the prime movers in his behalf. The fact that the New York men 
with but few exceptions knew of Mr. Hamlin s opposition to Mr. 
Seward, and yet favored him for Vice-President, is another proof of 
the unselfish spirit of the occasion. David K. Cartter, of Ohio, pre 
sented Mr. Hamlin s name, and on the first ballot he received 194 to 
ioij for Clay, 58 for Hickman, 51 for Reeder, 38^ for Banks, and a 
scattering for others. On the second he received 367, and was 
nominated. 1 

Senator Hamlin was totally unprepared for the action of the con 
vention, and his nomination was perhaps the greatest surprise he 
received during his political career. The day the ticket was to be 
named he wrote a letter to his wife, who was in Bangor, from which 
it appeared that his thoughts were chiefly on domestic affairs. He 
referred to the probable course of the convention in these few words : 
" To-day I presume Seward will be nominated at Chicago. If so we 
must make the best of it, though I am sure a much wiser nomination 
could be made." This was the prevailing impression. Horace 
Greeley, who was opposed to Mr. Seward, telegraphed the " Tribune " 

1 The vote in detail was: First ballot. Hamlin: Maine 16, New Hampshire 
10, Vermont 10, Massachusetts I, Rhode Island 8, Connecticut 5, New York 35, 
New Jersey 6, Pennsylvania 11, Maryland 8, Delaware 2, Ohio 46, Indiana 8, 
Michigan 8, Illinois 2, Wisconsin 5, Iowa 6, Minnesota 6, Oregon i ; total 194. 
Clay: Connecticut 3, New York 9, New Jersey i, Pennsylvania 4^, Indiana 2, 
Delaware 3, Virginia 23, Kentucky 23, Maryland 18," Michigan 4, Illinois 2, Wis 
consin 5, Minnesota i, Nebraska i, and the District of Columbia 2; total ioi. 
Hickman: Massachusetts i, Connecticut 2, New York u, Maryland i, Pennsyl 
vania 7, Delaware i, Missouri 9, Illinois 2, California 8, Minnesota i, Oregon 3, 
Kansas 6, and Nebraska 5 ; total 58. On the second ballot, Massachusetts with 
drew Banks, and cast 26 for Hamlin ; Pennsylvania withdrew Reeder, and threw 
54 for Hamlin, and New York 70. The nomination was made unanimous. 


the night before that Seward s nomination was sure. The news of 
Lincoln s selection was therefore all the more gratifying to Mr. 
Hamlin from a party point of view, for he personally liked Mr. 
Seward very much. He was in a pleasant frame of mind over the 
outlook, and prepared to enjoy the evening at a pleasant game of 
cards with some of his senatorial companions in his rooms at the 
Washington House. About nine o clock a tumult of men cheering 
and rushing into the hotel was heard. Upstairs they poured, and 
presently they were in the entry, pounding at Mr. Hamlin s door. He 
arose in a hurry, not suspecting what the matter was, and opened the 
door. There stood Colfax, Chandler, Wade, Bingham, Foot, Wash- 
burne, and many other old friends. Up went their hands in a military 
salute : 

"Good-evening, Mr. Vice-President," was the chorus Mr. Hamlin 

" What do you mean ? " he asked in amazement. 

"You have been nominated for Vice-President," was the reply. 

"But I don t want the place," he ejaculated. 

"Look here, Hamlin," interposed Ben \Vade, as he thrust himself 
forward, " if you decline, the Democrats will think that you are afraid 
to run, and your fear will be taken as auguring our defeat." 

" That is so, that is so," chorused the others. 

" W T hat ! " said Mr. Hamlin, "they might think I was afraid to run 
on a Republican ticket ? " 

"Yes, Hamlin, just that," replied Wade. 

"Well, now, I shall, and be damned to them," Senator Hamlin 
blurted out, excited and amused over this turn of fortune. 

This conversation took place in less time than it takes to read it, 
and when it was over, a great crowd of men, who had not heard it, 
were pressing into Mr. Hamlin s room, eager to congratulate him. He 
entered into the spirit of the movement so cordially that his friends 
were all enthusiasm, and the fright they had received was forgotten 
for the nonce, to be recalled later as an amusing illustration of the old 
Carthaginian s frankness and bluntness. They understood, of course, 
that he impulsively expressed his disinclination for the vice-presidency, 
but that he was too faithful a man to evade his party s call and shirk 
his duty. There was no more worriment on this score, and that was 
the end of the affair and all there was to it, although elaborated ac 
counts give another impression. 

In the mean time, the news had circulated around the city, and soon 
a great crowd gathered before the Washington House, clamorous for a 
sight of the candidate. Washington was a Seward city, and his defeat 
depressed the Republicans there. Senator Dawes, who was present 
on this occasion as a representative from Massachusetts, wrote of the 


incident : " The nomination of Mr. Hamlin for Vice-President came to 
him unsought and unexpected. We at Washington had no other 
thought but that Mr. Seward would head the ticket, and that Mr. 
Lincoln, or some other Western man, would be selected for the second 
place. Our hearts were broken with disappointment. The news of 
Mr. Lincoln s nomination reached Washington in the afternoon, that 
of Mr. Hamlin s late in the evening. The intermediate time was 
spent in nursing our anger. But when the nomination of Mr. Hamlin 
was announced, a stormy multitude stormed his hotel, and forced him 
out on the balcony. The night was gloomy, and the crowd was more 
so. But his first sentence, What is one man in this crisis? lifted 
the cloud and let in the light. Before he had ceased we were ready 
to lay aside our idol and pledge our loyalty to a new leader." 

Senator Hamlin wrote his wife the following characteristic letter: 

" I have just received your letter of the i6th. You are a dear wife to 
write me so often, for it does me good, when I am here alone, to hear from 
you. It was my intention to have written you quite fully to-day, but I can 
not do it as I have much on my hands, and you must excuse me. 

" Well, dear, I presume you were as much astonished as myself at my 
nomination for Vice-President. I was amazed at it. I neither expected nor 
desired it. But it has been made, and as a man faithful to the cause, it 
leaves me no alternative but to accept it. 

"The first news I had was between nine and ten o clock Friday evening, 
when I heard a great rush of men in the passage outside my room. The 
door was suddenly opened and the room filled with men, Mr. Colfax, of the 
House, with a dispatch in his hand, announcing the result. There was a 
wonderful excitement over it until about one o clock. 

" Last evening our house was brilliantly illuminated, and I made a very 
short speech to the crowd that gathered to serenade me. I will send it to 
you. The ladies all regretted that you were not here. So did I. I send 
you several papers, so that you may see what is said." 

The action of the Chicago convention was a great surprise to the 
country, but was well received by the Republican party. As it is 
the special province of this volume to deal with Mr. Hamlin s career, 
it is proper to reproduce some of the comments his nomination evoked 
from the press, that a more comprehensive idea may be gained of his 
standing before the country at this time. One comment of interest 
is from the " New York Evening Post," which was one of the original 
Republican newspapers, and was still under the guidance of William 
Cullen Bryant. This was in part as follows : 

" It is written on the tablets of destiny that Lincoln is to be the next 
President of the United States. The name which is associated with that 
of Lincoln is a worthy and honored one. Mr. Hamlin, of Maine, has long 
been a member of Congress, first the House of Representatives, and then 


of the Senate, and in both capacities has represented his State with ability 
and dignity. His name has never been connected with any dishonorable 
measure, and the record of his public life is one that will bear being spread 
open to the gaze of the public from its first page to its last. His parlia 
mentary experience will make him a prompt and skillful moderator of the 
debates of the Senate, and his long familiarity .with public affairs will make 
him a wise and safe adviser in the Cabinet. We congratulate the country 
that the future President is likely to have a coadjutor of so high a charac 
ter and such eminent capacity." 

Brief extracts may be quoted from numerous newspapers published 
in the various sections of the country. 

The " New York Tribune " said : " Mr. Hamlin is a man of dignified 


presence, of solid abilities, of unflinching integrity, and great executive 
talent. . . . The name of Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, is a fit second to 
that of Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois." The " Detroit Daily Advertiser : " 
"The nomination of Hannibal Hamlin is eminently fit as the second, or 
rather comrade, of the gallant Lincoln. He would have honored the place 
to which Lincoln himself has been nominated." The " Boston Traveler : " 
" Mr. Hamlin has always held a high place in the Senate, and probably 
there is no man in the country who has a better acquaintance with its great 
interests or who has labored more industriously or intelligently for their ad 
vancements." The " Worcester Spy : " " The candidate for Vice-Presi